Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How to Make Your New Year's Resolution Matter

In a few short days, we will be besieged by commercials for things like diet programs and exercise devices and memberships. It is a new year and so people are making their resolutions - lose weight, exercise more, quit smoking, save for retirement, and so on. Go to the gym on January 2nd and you will see a bunch of new faces - and you will have to wait in line to use the treadmill machine. But wait until February and the crowds will have thinned tremendously.
The problem with New Year's resolutions, however, is that people think about the results instead of the process. Let's say your New Year's resolution is to exercise more. This is a very general goal. We can dramatically improve our chances of success if we make our goals SMART.
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound
Let's say you are a total coach potato. Maybe a good goal is to walk 50 miles a month. (Check with your doctor first. While this might seem like a modest goal, it will deliver wonderful benefits for you if you are not exercising at all). Judging by our SMART barometer, this goal is very specific, easy to measure, attainable by most people, and would only take about 12 hours a month to accomplish. All in all, it's a realistic goal. You could give yourself 90 days to work up to it.

Next, plan the times when you will walk. You could say Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 AM until 8:30 AM, you will walk four miles. This is good, but you can make the goal easier to achieve if you use a technique  recommended in the book Switch, How to Change When Change is Hard ( and make walking the default option. What if you put a pair of walking shoes in the trunk of your car and changed where you park your car from the lot that is next to your building to one that is a mile away? This way, instead of needing the discipline to exercise 12 times each month, all you need to do is change your garage one time. If you can make achieving the goal the default option, you will greatly increase your chances of success.

Lastly, an indispensable part of goal achievement is to have an accountability partner. The key here is to have frequent contact with your accountability partner. Once a week is the minimum frequency, but daily is better. This way if you get off track on your goal, your partner can bring you back in line much quicker.

While this may have been a simple example, you can use these techniques for virtually any goal. First, make the goal SMART. Next, look for a way to make success the default option. Lastly, get an accountability partner. This will greatly increase your chances of success.

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