Every January, health clubs fill up with folks in newly purchased exercise outfits, trying to figure out how to use the equipment. By the end of March they'll be back on the couch and there won't be lines at the Cross Trainers.
Most of those disappearing exercisers were folks who made a New Year's resolution to "get fit" or "lose weight" or "start an exercise program." Why couldn't they make that resolution stick?
The problem is often that a resolution lacks specificity. It's a promise to "do better," without specifics about what that means or how it's going to happen. That's why I like goals better than resolutions.
Goals, as Marjorie Blanchard once put it, are "dreams with deadlines." They're more specific than resolutions and that's part of their strength. I use the acronym SMART to specify the criteria for good goals.
S = Specific. That means specific in terms of achievement and time. How much weight are you going to lose? By when?
M = Method. How are you going to achieve that goal? How often will you go to the gym? What will you do there? How will you modify your eating patterns? Without method, a goal is just a hope.
A = Attainable. Can you do it? Is it reasonable? Are your goals reasonable? Is your method of achieving them reasonable given your hectic life?
One more thing about "Attainable." It's tempting to set a goal really high so that, "even if I just do fifty percent, I'll really improve." The problem with that is human psychology.
If you want long term change, it's best to get there in lots of small steps, rather than a few big ones. Set goals you can achieve. The emotional boost you'll get from success will help you keep moving forward.
R = Relevant. Is it important? Don't waste your time on things that aren't important. Changing behavior is hard work. Put your effort into something that will really make a difference for you.
Don't dilute your effort, either. Work on changing one thing at a time. Otherwise you risk spreading your efforts too thin and accomplishing nothing.
T = Trackable. How will you know that you're making progress?
Set achievement milestones so you can tell how you're doing every day or week or month. Turn your big goal for the year into lots of little goal-steps that you can track as the weeks unfold.
Forget those resolutions. Set SMART goals instead.
"The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be" by Jack Canfield with Janet Switzer
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