Forget Resolutions–Set Goals Instead

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We’ve all done it at least once: made New Year’s resolutions. And three months later we’re no slimmer, richer or more successful than when we started. It’s not for lack of sincerely wanting to do it in the moment the resolution is made. It’s really all about making a plan and sticking to it. And to do that, you’ll need at least one goal to go for.  So forget resolutions.  Set goals instead.

Why set goals?

You may think you know what you want to accomplish.  But there’s power in setting a goal to get what you want.  By setting a goal you describe what you want in detail.  You can also say in a goal how you want to go about getting it and when you expect to get it if you follow your plan.  Which is more believable to you?

  • I’m saving for a luxury car.
  • I’m putting away $200 per paycheck towards getting a Mercedes coupe in 2024.

And which one are you more likely to quit on?  The one where you pin down what you can do to get the car, or the one that’s so vague it’s a wish?

You can share your goal with someone who will keep you accountable.  Tell a friend you trust that you’re saving for a fancy car and how you plan to do it, and they can call you on big splurges to make sure you’ve put your contribution in the car fund first.  After all, they’ll look good riding with you if you get that Mercedes.

SMART Goals can help.

For best results, use SMART goals.  They let you set up the what, when, where, why and how of getting what you want.  So if you want to lose weight for a special occasion, this is easy.  Suppose someone you know is getting married in June and it’s January now.  It would be nice to look good for his or her special day, and you’ll need something new to wear anyway, so why not  set a goal?

By June 23, 2019, I will fit into a size 12 dress, by dieting and exercising to lose 3 pounds a month and at least 6 total inches in girth, so that I can look nice for my daughter on her wedding day.

In this goal you know when you want the goal to be done, what your goal is, how you’ll go about getting it and why you want it.

For the rundown on how to use SMART goals, click here.

Why say why?

Why would you need to say what motivates you?  Because believe it or not, it’s good to keep that in front of you so you never lose touch with your reason for the goal.

It’s even better when your why is about someone else, not just you.  Unless you are a huge narcissist, your why is more effective if it’s connected to someone else, preferably someone you care about.  If you really care about the elephants in Africa and can connect them to a goal plausibly, that’s fine.  Just be sure you are very committed to their welfare.

Seriously, I recently read about a parent making a goal because her child wanted her to do a special day and it took some getting ready for.  The mother was not generally inclined to care to do it, so it was sort of a sacrifice to do for the daughter.  But once the mother got started with the exercise part, she realized it was helping her feel better too.  And in the end, she reached her goal and enjoyed the special day with her daughter.

This illustrated the findings by psychologists that people will do more for others than they will for themselves.  How many parents quit smoking because of the pleas of their kids?  That’s not an easy thing to do, yet parents did it in droves back a number of years ago.  So when you set a goal, think of someone special who will be surprised or pleased with your result and dedicate the goal to them.

Goals are for change

Goals aim at making a change in your behavior.  Whether it’s dieting, exercising, quitting smoking or saving for a special purchase, you have to behave differently than you did before.   And changing your behavior isn’t easy.

That’s why we dedicate the goal to someone, and that is why we make ourselves accountable to someone for best results.  Social pressures work.

Routines work too, so when you set up your goal and get down to steps to take, try to make up some steps to a routine you can learn and keep.  So if you are starting an exercise regimen, start out slow so you don’t injure yourself and quit.  Start with some exercise you know you can do, and then just add a little more.  When that gets easy, add a little more again.  And so on.

Or if you are quitting smoking, identify your triggers to smoke one by one and find something besides smoking that you can do when triggered.  Take a walk after dinner instead of a smoke.  Do a wind-down yoga position or two instead of smoking before bed.  Pretty soon you have new habits to take the place of old ones.

All sorts of things are possible if you make SMART goals and follow through with them.  So skip the resolutions, or better yet, make goals of them!



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