Did you, like millions of others, make New Years resolutions or set new goals for the coming 365 days? (Well, 358 days now.) If you did, I hope you are still strong in your resolve to stick with them! Whether you have a unique and specific resolution or you share your new year objectives with millions of others, we can all use a little help to stay the course.
If you are the type of person that benefits from community support to help reach your goals, Twitter published the Top 2015 New Years Resolutions on Twitter based on what people were tweeting:
Any of those look familiar? If any of those match up with your goals and resolutions you know you can turn to Twitter for a community of people working towards the same things you are!
But what if you have a goal that is slightly more unique or you need a little more structure? I recommend drawing up a SMART Goal plan for each of your resolutions and checking in often! The SMART Goals approach is not new (or mine), it’s been around for a long time but it is effective for big, New Years style goals and every-day goals like meeting marketing campaign objectives, finishing that renovation or developing a new habit.
To break it down, the SMART Goal approach requires you flush out your goal to be a little more than just a bullet point and build a plan around it. First, be specific, meaning instead of saying, for example, that you want to “write more,” define what that means, does it mean you want to write one blog post a week? One journal entry a day? One letter a month? Six reviews this quarter? Four tweets per day?
Next assign some measures to your goal, break it down into numbers and make it quantifiable. If you can’t easily measure your performance in a non subjective manner you never really know if you are improving, getting closer to your goal or to what degree you have moved forward. So, instead of saying “get healthier,” assign some numbers to what that means and write down your starting point. You might decide that getting healthier means lowering your cholesterol or blood pressure, increasing the number of push ups you can do, keeping below 3 alcoholic drinks a week or drinking 2 more glasses of water per work day. Once you have your starting numbers and your goals written down you can track and measure your progress objectively. If your goal includes words like ‘more’ or ‘less’, add a real number to it and write down your starting point.
Next, take a long hard look at your goal and ask yourself is this goal really attainable? Maybe it is not realistic to say you’ll do yoga 7 days a week or add $20,000 to your savings this year, that doesn’t mean give up on the goal, just rework it until it is an attainable goal based on where you are now and everything else going on in your life. Write down all of the things you will have to do to make the goal attainable, maybe that means waking up an hour earlier three days a week or setting up an auto payment to your savings account each payday.
Then it helps to reexamine why you want to reach this goal to begin with, is it relevant? What does it mean to you in the big picture? Usually, if you have a good goal, having a clear understanding of the ‘why’ behind your goal is enough to keep you motivated and on track. I’ll go back to an example we use when discussing objectives with clients who start off saying they want 1,000 Likes on Facebook. On the surface that looks like a great goal, it’s specific, measurable and attainable – but is it relevant? Why do you want 1,000 Likes on Facebook? Wouldn’t it be better to drive website traffic or sales from Facebook instead of inflating your Likes? Unless you have a bet with a buddy that you can get to 1,000 Likes first and you really want to win then maybe that isn’t the most relevant goal to be chasing if it doesn’t impact the big picture. One other example is the weight loss goal – why do you want to lose weight? If it’s because getting back to your weight from last year means you can fit into some of your favourite clothes again – great! If it is to hit an arbitrary number on a scale – why? Find a better why – like being able to fit into the playhouse with your kids or winning the Biggest loser contest at work. If you find the reason you want to lose 15 pounds is to feel better about yourself, than maybe your actual goal should be to be happier with yourself! Then, losing weight might be one of many things you can do to help achieve your actual goal, along with journaling, spending time with friends and family and showing gratitude.
Time-bound is an easy one, not all goals need to take a whole year, set a date for reaching your goal and set mini-milestones leading up to it. Smaller milestone goals will be easier to work towards and give you check points where you can celebrate or recalibrate the progress on your plan. Each time review the entire SMART goal outline and make sure everything still makes sense, edit as needed! Just because you miss one milestone doesn’t mean you should give up on the whole goal, it just means you should look at your plan to achieve it and make tweaks to help you hit the next milestone.
Once you have your goals all mapped out and a clear plan on how, why and when you are going to achieve them then I’d like to add one more letter to the acronym and make it SMARTS Goals. Get Social! Telling people your goals is great for a few reasons, one it can build up a cheering squad for you and it makes you socially accountable for your goal. Once you tell people you’re working towards something there is always a chance they will ask you about it later and you don’t want to sheepishly reply that you gave up on the goal you were so pumped about only a few days, weeks or months ago. Second, there is strength in community, find a goal buddy or group of people working towards the same goal so you can have someone to turn to when your goal becomes challenging. Search out or create a hashtag for your goal or set up a Facebook group to connect others that can all support each other in reaching their goals.
Good luck with your goals for the new year and remember – you don’t have to wait until New Years Eve to start working towards a new goal!