For some arbitrary reason, January 1st is the day we dare to reinvent ourselves. New year, new me!
However, the research shows that over 80% of new year resolutions are abandoned before the end of January. Why is this, and how can we avoid this trap?
We’re creatures of habit. We’ve been doing things a certain way for decades, and willpower isn’t enough to overwrite so many years of conditioning.
What’s the solution, then? Systems. A system is a new way of doing things. It’s putting a plan in place instead of relying on wishful thinking.
The SMART framework is a great system to set new goals. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Make sure your goal is very clear and specific. Who, what, where, why, and when will you be doing this? Instead of saying, “I’m going to exercise more”, say, “I’m going to run two miles on Tuesday and Friday.”
As the old business adage says, “If it gets measured, it gets done.” The problem with goals like “exercising more” is that we’re very good at rationalizing our decisions to feel better about ourselves. We can easily convince our minds that we’re doing well because we’re exercising more than last year, even though we spent all of last year watching TV.
A measurable goal, on the other hand, is binary. If we decide to exercise twice a week, there’s no doubt whether or not we’re sticking to it.
In my experience, the number one reason people quit their goals is that they’re unrealistic. When we’re trying to change our lifestyle, moving in the right direction is way more important than how fast we’re moving.
The biggest hurdle is to establish a new habit, so our objective should be to set goals so easy that we can’t fail. If you haven’t exercised all year, deciding to run 5 miles a day is setting yourself up for failure. Instead, start with a smaller goal, like walking for 10 minutes four times a week.
Setting 1-month mini goals is a smart idea. If you managed to walk 10 minutes four times a week, then set a slightly more ambitious goal, like adding a 5-minute light run at the end of your walks.
If you weren’t able to stick to your goal, cut it in half, and try again. Do it twice a week, or do 5 minutes instead of 10.
Remember: it’s not about how big the goal is. It’s about proving to yourself that you can do what you say you’re going to do.
Change is usually very hard, but it’s much easier when we have a purpose for it. Why do you want to exercise more? Do you want to feel younger, more energized? Do you want to be around longer for your children and grandchildren?
When it’s cold outside and you don’t feel like going for a walk, remind yourself why you’re doing it in the first place. That will get you moving.
In addition to the metric we use to evaluate our success, such as miles run, make sure you define the frequency as well. In our example, we’re running two miles on Tuesday and Friday.
In other words, don’t put your goals in a to-do list. Put them in your calendar. Schedule them in the same way you do a doctor’s appointment. And make sure you enable calendar reminders so you can’t forget.
Put Your Goals Where You Can’t Ignore Them
Now that you know how to set effective goals, write yours on a piece of paper and post it somewhere you see every single day. It could be on your fridge door, next to your bed or on your desk.
Remember: Willpower is often not enough to create change. We need a system to change our habits. So, write SMART goals and put them where they can’t be ignored. Take baby steps. Small, incremental changes compound over time. Stick to the system. Soon enough, you’ll look back and be impressed at how far you’ve come. Happy New Year!