It is no secret that most of us have a hard time sticking to new year’s resolutions. In fact, there is a plethora of research that indicates most people give up on new year’s resolutions within a month. Does that mean there is no hope for the new year’s resolution? Not necessarily; it’s all about the approach to our goals.
We make new year’s resolutions with the best of intentions and a sense of determination, thus, our resolutions tend to be rather tenacious. Typical resolutions set the bar high and do not leave room for growth or error: work out 6 days a week, follow a healthy diet without deviating from the list of approved foods, prioritize new daily self-care practices.
While these resolutions show our desire to change ourselves for the better, they are typically vague and do not take into account the process of change.
Make a plan
While typical new year’s resolutions center on change immediately when the new year begins, SMART goals are focused on creating change over time in an intentional, calculated way.
SMART goals are:
- Specific: Can you name exactly what you want to do in concrete terms
- Measurable: How do you plan to measure progress?
- Achievable: Is your goal something you believe you can realistically achieve?
- Relevant: Is this a goal you personally believe in, or have you made it for someone else?
- Time-bound: When do you expect to achieve your goal?
We should examine our SMART goals and decide whether we need to create short-term goals as stepping stones towards long-term goals. One way to know we need short-term goals is to explore whether the goal is achievable as-is, or if it would be beneficial to create a short-term goal to help you stay accountable to the bigger picture. For example, if your new year’s resolution is to go for a run five times a week, but you don’t run at all, perhaps it is more reasonable to make a short-term goal to run twice a week for the next month. If successful, you would then create a new short-term goal that ups your activity. If not, you have the option of changing the measure to once a week.
The SMART goal is an effective approach to creating lasting change because we have a road map to our success and a “check-in” to see whether we are on track or need to adjust.
SMART goals require us to be consistent, which is great, but this comes with its own challenges. Many of us find it difficult to feel motivated, especially in the early stages of change. This is why most of us give up on our new year’s resolutions within the first month. The truth is, if we wait for motivation to strike, we may find ourselves waiting for a while. The challenge of being consistent is that we have to follow through even when we don’t feel like it. So often, we spend time thinking about whether we should take action towards our goal or whether we should remain in our comfort zone of old habits. When we recognize these thoughts, we need to consider how to help ourselves build motivation.
How do we build motivation? How can we remind ourselves of the importance of follow-through, and take action?
For starters, remember: taking action leads to feelings of motivation to persevere and do the hard work. In other words, we may have to take action without feeling motivated in order to create feelings of motivation. Some find it helpful to have an accountability buddy, someone who knows the goal and can offer words of wisdom, encouragement, and feedback; someone who can serve as an external source of motivation and support.
If we are unable to take action, perhaps it is time to revisit our SMART goal to explore ways we can make it more achievable and realistic. Change is a marathon, not a sprint, and revising our goals when we lack motivation makes sense. There is no shame in revising our goals; this is a process.
Believe in the process
Because we are making gradual changes over time, we have to remember that we are in the process.
What does a healthy relationship with the process look like?
- We are patient and believe a new year’s resolution does not have to subscribe to an all-or-nothing mindset.
- We are intentional in our actions and monitor our goals.
We are informed by our mistakes; when we face setbacks, we focus on what we learned and how we grew.
- We are flexible and welcome opportunities to regroup and move forward.
We practice self-compassion and are kind to ourselves. When we have to reset, we remember to use our strengths and resources.
- We celebrate milestones, new goals, and small victories.
- When we believe in the process, we ditch perfectionism and self-criticism because we approach our goals with patience and a growth mindset.
Remember: new year’s resolutions are often good intentions. When we take the time to examine and fine-tune our new year’s resolutions, we create solid goals and take consistent steps towards our desired habits. We become one with the process of change.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to Ammirati Counseling to ask and inquire about support services that you can receive to help with overcoming feelings of depression, loneliness, stress or anxiety.