How many times have you made a New Year’s Resolution? How many times have you accomplished your goal? How many people do you know who have reached and continued with their New Year’s Resolution?
One survey found that the average resolution lasts less than four months. After 12 months, only 6% of people reported sticking with their goal.
The start of a new year presents a blank canvas, a chance to set things on the right course. By aspiring to a goal and diligently pursuing it, we cultivate a sense of control over our lives—even if just a small part.
Then why do most of us fail to stick with our New Year’s resolution? It may be the reason we make it, our expectations, the way we plan it, or many other reasons. First, we need to look at our motivation for setting the goal. Do we really want to achieve it, and are we willing to do what it takes to succeed, or are we just doing it because we know we should? Second, do we have realistic expectations? We may say we plan to go to the gym five days a week, but can we maintain that commitment? Third, do we set ourselves up to succeed or fail?
One popular method of effective goal setting is the S.M.A.R.T. strategy. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Here's a breakdown of each component:
Specific: Goals should be clear, well-defined and focused. They answer the questions of who, what, where, when and why. The more specific a goal is, the easier it is to understand and work towards.
Measurable: Goals should be defined with clear and specific quantifiable criteria that clearly indicate when the goal has been successfully attained. This involves using measurable terms such as numbers, percentages, or other metrics.
Achievable: Goals should be realistic and attainable. While it's good to aim high, ensuring the goal is feasible is also important, given the resources, time and other constraints. It should be challenging but not impossible.
Relevant: Goals should align with broader objectives and be meaningful to your overall mission or purpose. They should contribute to your long-term plans and relate to your current needs and priorities.
Time-bound: Goals should have a specific timeframe. This creates a sense of urgency and helps organize your efforts efficiently. Setting a deadline also provides a way to measure progress and stay focused on achieving the goal within a reasonable timeframe.
Consider this general goal: “Spend more time with my family.” It’s too general to be meaningful. Spending half an hour watching TV with your family each week may accomplish this goal—so may reading your child a bedtime story each night or having a family outing every weekend. Each scenario appears to achieve this goal, but each method and result is very different.
Here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal for spending more time with your family:
Specific Goal: Spend at least two evenings per week engaging in interactive, technology-free activities with my family.
Measurable: Track the number of evenings spent with family each week. Aim to achieve the goal of two evenings per week within the next month.
Achievable: Considering work commitments and other responsibilities, allocating two evenings per week is realistic and manageable. It also leaves room to add additional evenings and weekends in the future.
Relevant: Enhancing family connections is crucial for the overall well-being of the entire family. Spending quality time with loved ones aligns with the broader goal of creating a balanced and fulfilling life.
Time-bound: Start implementing the goal from the beginning of next month and continue consistently for the next three months. Assess your progress regularly and make adjustments if needed.
By setting your goal this way, you have a clear and actionable plan to spend more meaningful time with your family, with specific criteria to measure success and a timeframe for accountability and assessment.