New Years Eve – Resolution Time

  1. I will lose weight,
  2. I will stop drinking alcohol, and
  3. I will finish that novel.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it. The majority of people I know make at least two of those three resolutions at the start of every year, only to abandon them by the end of January. The people who aren’t making those resolutions are usually the people who say “I’m not making a resolution this year because they’re stupid”. So what is it about new years resolutions and this ability we have to leave them unfulfilled?

Life always manages to get in the way, throwing challenges that have us reaching for the nearest comfort: food, alcohol, procrastination. It’s always much easier to cope with whatever stresses are assaulting us when we have a bag of M&Ms, a bottle of Jack Daniels, and a copy of Skyrim. The simple answer is strength of will determines how successful you will be at achieving your new year’s resolutions, but as we know life is rarely simple.

Perhaps it has something do with the credence we place on new years resolutions. It’s okay not to fulfil them because they are just a fun game to play at the start of the year and nobody else fulfils them anyway. We make these resolutions because everyone else is doing it, not because we are entering a pact to make a significant change in our lives. We do not treat them seriously, we do not treat them as goals to be attained, just something to strive towards for a little while until something better comes along.

So looking forward to 2012, is this going to be the year you set yourself a resolution that you can achieve. As I alluded to before, you need to treat your resolution like you would a goal, and once you start doing that you can start applying some little techniques to help achieve those goals. The one I like to use is SMART goals:

  • Specific – your goals should not be broad statements like “lose weight”, they should state specifically how much weight you want to lose. You need a target.
  • Measureable – you need a way in which you can measure progress from beginning to end, and the types of measures you use need to make sense. Just saying that you have written 2000 words is okay, but it really needs some context with relation to your target. Percentage measures are usually the best. I have written 2000 words of my 20,000 word novel – I have achieved 10% of my target.
  • Achievable – your goals should be realistic. Losing 40kg over the space of 4 months is not even close to being achievable, losing 40kg over the space of 40 weeks at 1kg per week is much more realistic.
  • Relevant – if you dont care about your goal, if you can tie it in with something you need or want, your motivation to achieve the goal will be lacking. “I want to stop drinking alcohol because everyone else is stopping” is very different to “I want to stop drinking alcohol because it is an expensive habit that is stopping me from saving for a house”.
  • Timeframe – you need to set a strict timeframe for the achievement or evaluation of your goal as a motivator for achieving your goal. Tie this timeframe in with key milestones that relate back to those relevance categories. I need to have written my novel by July so that I can enter it in the August novel writing competition.

Revisiting my new years resolutions above, lets turn them into proper goals.

1. I will achieve a target weight of 90kgs by end of this year so that I can look better, feel better, and reduce my blood pressure. I will achieve a target of 110kg by the end of April, and 100kg by the end of August.

2. I will save $1,000.00 by the end of this year towards buying a new camera. I will do this by not spending $25.oo a week on alcohol. I will auto-transfer $50.00 fortnightly into a new savings account for a total of $1,300.00 by the end of the year, giving me $300 total to spend on alcohol this year.

3. I will write a 70,000 word 1st draft novel by the end of this year as a stepping stone towards starting up my own business. That is 1,500 words a week (this post is around 750 words). I will have written 25,000 words by the end of April, and 50,000 words by the end of August.

Now it’s your turn. What are your new years resolutions? Can you turn them into SMART goals?