Did you skip making a New Year’s resolution for 2021? Did you make a resolution and have trouble sticking with it? Read on…
New Year’s resolutions may have started with the ancient Babylonians about 4,000 years ago. One has to wonder if they were any more successful than we are in setting and keeping New Year’s resolutions. Approximately 45% of adults set goals for the new year. However, research shows that only 8% keep those resolutions.
You can do better by following a few straightforward tips. Enter the SMARTER goal. The SMART goal is not a new concept, it was first published by George Doran in 1981 and later expanded to include the Evaluated and Reviewed portion. Here is an overview:
Specific: Target a specific area that you want to improve.
Measurable: What is your indicator of progress? Put a number on it.
Achievable: Can you do it?
Realistic: What result can you realistically achieve with available resources?
Time-related: When will you reach your intended result?
Evaluate: Assess how well you achieved your goal.
Review: Reflect on achievements. If necessary, adjust your approach or behavior to reach your goal.
Another strategy is to make a goal a habit, as proposed by James Clear in his best-selling book Atomic Habits. Think of your goal as a “habit loop” with three easy processes in mind.
CUE. First set up a CUE (signal, prompt, or reminder) for your desired habit. For example, let’s say your goal is to begin a habit of daily meditation. After you have established the SMARTER goal, select a cue that reminds you to follow through with your goal. This may be placing your favorite book in your favorite chair in which you will meditate.
CRAVING. The CUE sets up the second step in your habit loop – the CRAVING for the new habit. Make your new habit of meditation attractive and appealing so that you will feel that something is missing if you skip this part of your day.
REWARD. The final step in the habit loop is to REWARD yourself with something simple and meaningful for sticking with your meditation practice.
After you set your goal, sticking with it is the more challenging part. Make your new habit obvious. Don’t let your habit fade into the background of your daily routine. Sometimes life requires you to skip a day of your new habit. But try to avoid missing two days in a row. Set one goal at a time, keeping it easy and satisfying. Few people stick with difficult goals or goals that are not personally satisfying.
An important consideration in being successful is the behavioral process underlying such goals. For example, two people set a goal of meditating for five minutes daily. One person is successful; the other is not. The underlying processes are what differentiates the success or non-success. As Clear noted, we do not rise to the level of our successes, we fall to the level of our processes. We do better when we focus more on our underlying processes, not getting stuck on setting our goals.
This can be the best of previous years. Ask yourself what and who is really important in your life? It is OK to be surprised, when you take a few moments to dig deep in your personal values and hear what rises to the top. We often set goals without thoughtful and reflective consideration of what is most important in our lives. Think carefully about changes you want to make in this new year.
Wishing you a healthy, happy, and wholesome 2021!
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Dr. Joe Banken PhD