Written by: Dr. Erika Vivyan
New Year’s resolutions often fail. Maybe you’re not meeting the goals that you set for yourself. Maybe you’ve experienced major success this year! To re-energize your 2020 resolutions, refine them using the SMART goals system:
S stands for SPECIFIC. Often, our New Year’s resolutions sound something like this: “I want to live my life to the fullest” or “I want to change my negative self-talk.” If we don’t get specific with our goals, it’s really hard to determine what the goal really is. Make your resolution clearer and more specific so that you know why you’re setting the goal and how you will achieve it. One way to do this is to answer the 5 W’s:
WHO needs to take action in order for the goal to be reached? Do you need help to get there? Which family members, friends, and professionals might help you to get there?
WHAT are you trying to increase, decrease, add, or eliminate?
WHERE will you be when you are working on this goal? Will it get done at home, at school, at work, or in your therapist’s office?
WHEN will you work on this goal? When will you know that it’s been completed (see TIME-BOUND below)?
WHY are you setting this goal for yourself (see RELEVANT below)?
M is for MEASURABLE. There is a wise old saying that declares, “You manage what you measure.” It’s totally true! Trying to stop cursing? Count those cuss words. Looking to sleep 8 hours every night? Track every wink. You might even set a resolution where measuring the outcome is the strategy. You already know which direction you’d like the numbers to go, and measuring gives you an extra boost of feel-good chemicals in your brain when you get closer to your goal.
A is for ACHIEVABLE. New Year’s resolutions usually start big and then fail. Instead of giving up on your resolutions, why not scale back to make them more reasonable? For example, if your resolution was to reduce stress by meditating twice daily (what a SPECIFIC and MEASURABLE goal huh?), aim for once daily at first. Anything is better than no change at all!
R stands for RELEVANT. Make your resolution important to your life and the things that matter to you. If you’re a student, focus on getting all of your homework turned in on time. If you’re a parent, focus on spending quality time with your children. Think about what is most relevant to how you want your life to grow and change, and reframe your goals based on those things.
T is for TIMELY. Most New Year’s resolutions are intended to be a yearlong commitment, though some ideas like a 90-day-callenge (spending 90 days on a goal) or Dry January (avoiding alcohol for the month) are becoming popular. Often, our resolutions are intended to form lifelong habits. Sometimes, the goal has a more specific time frame, such as “before the end of the semester” or “before my cousin’s wedding.” Decide on a deadline for your resolution, and then determine when you plan to work towards this goal. For example, you might meditate every morning when you wake up or go for a run on weekdays over your lunch break. Bonus points if you put the goals on your calendar and set your phone to “do not disturb.”
If you’re falling behind on your resolutions or have entirely given up, you can still make 2020 your year. Make a few changes and keep moving forward, or start an entirely new SMART resolution!