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New Year’s Resolutions That Work

How can you make resolutions you’ll actually keep?

Making general resolutions to change (”I’ll lose weight” / “I’ll stop smoking” / “I’ll do something about my job”) rarely results in actually achieving what you resolve.

Those general statements are good starts, though.

Think smart. That’s S – M – A – R – T — a way to look at your goals, to make them work for you. New Year’s resolutions are one kind of goal.

S: specific. Instead of vague goals like “I’ll lose weight” or “I’ll exercise more,” what’s a specific goal? What size clothes do you ant to get into comfortably?  How may pounds lighter do you want to be? How many days a week will you exercise for how long? What strength or repetition milestone will you reach?

M: measurable.  Attach a number to that specific goal.  I’ll weigh X pounds.  I’ll finish a 5K in X minutes.  What number(s) can be used to measure so that you will know when you reach your goal — or let you know that you’re not yet there?

A: achievable. What’s a stretch to achieve, but not too difficult? Losing ten pounds a week isn’t healthy — so that’s not an achievable goal.  Either is spending 2 hours a day at the gym if you’re working 50 hours a week and want to spend some time with your partner and kids.  But one to two pounds a week may be achievable.  An hour three times a week at the gym may be a challenge but doable.

R: relevant.  Is the goal relevant to your life and your values? Are you setting the goal because you “should” do it, and not because it’s meaningful to you? For years I couldn’t keep resolutions to lose weight — until the year I realized that what I really wanted, longed for, was what I named healthiness. That felt far more relevant to my life than some number of pounds.

T: timely.  What’s your time limit?  Just planning to lose 25 pounds sometime won’t give you information on what to do this month, this week, today, as you work on the goal. Knowing you want to lose 25 pounds before spring break gives you enough information to know how you’re doing, and stay on track.

So here’s my 2012 New Year’s resolution: The vague version: “work on my health, strength and cardio capacity.”  The SMART goal: “I’m going to do 2,012 miles on a bicycle in 2012.”  In some combination of exercise bicycles and outdoor cycling.  Yes, I’ll also keep up with other exercise; this is an add-on.

It’s a SMART goal.

S:  specific. Ride a bicycle. I’m slightly vague on how much on each one, but that’s because it doesn’t really matter, and I don’t want to be thrown off my goal by the randomness of weather.

M: measurable. I’ll be able to measure easily on the exercise bike; on the outside bike, I can use an app or recheck the route on Google maps.  2,012 miles? It will be pretty obvious whether I have or have not made it.

A: achievable. It’s a stretch — averaging about 40 miles a week. But short of a major illness or unexpected, unplanned disruption, I can do it. And I’ll have motivation to go more quickly than 40 miles a week, to accommodate some early warm-up weeks and to be sure I’ll finish, which will give me more of a workout.

R: relevant. It’s relevant because I’m still aimed at healthiness, making up for decades of neglect and ignorance — and I really want to see my grandchildren grow up. My mother barely got to meet hers: she died when her first grandchild, at that time the only one, was just eight months old.

T: timely. The year ends on December 31, and that’s my time limit.  Better start early in January, to give myself more flexibility!

Ride 2,012 bicycle miles in 2,012.  Short, sweet goal statement, and it has all the ingredients for success.

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