“I swear I will lose weight this year”
“I want to travel more in 2019”
“I’d love to have a girlfriend this year”
“2019 is going to be full of hot sex”
“This year I’m finally going to get my finances in order”
“2019 is the year I get in shape.”
What do these common New Years resolutions have in common? They’re all impossible for you to achieve.
No, it’s not because you’re a sad sack and it’s not because you don’t have the willpower. These goals cannot be achieved because they’re half-baked. They aren’t clear. They don’t have the necessary ingredients for success.
According to the golden rules of goal setting, if you want to accomplish your resolution you need to make sure it’s SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound.
Let’s take “2019 is the year I get in shape” and turn it into a SMART resolution.
Step 1. Make your goal SPECIFIC
How do you define “in shape?” Do you want to lose weight? Or will you be working out with weights? Perhaps you want to swim a certain distance every time you’re in the pool? There are hundreds of ways to describe your goal. Nail it down. For this example, we’ll say you define “in shape” as being “able to run without feeling like you’re dying.”
Step 2. Make it MEASURABLE
British scientist Lord Kelvin is known for saying, “If you can measure it, you can manage it.”
If you want to get frustrated, try improving something without measuring it. Losing weight without using a diary or a scale is almost impossible. Paying off credit cards without monitoring your spending is an exercise in futility. And how can you drink less beer if you’re always too drunk to remember how many you had?
Make the habit of writing things down. Use a journal. Record details on your phone. Start carrying a notepad. Once you have some measurable data you can make progress.
In this case, you’ve decided you want to run with minimal suffering. Great, now you need some metrics to define what that means. After doing a little research on cardiovascular fitness, you determine you’d like to be able to run for several miles and keep your heartrate below 150 beats per minute.
Step 3. Make it ATTAINABLE
Your current goal is running multiple miles and staying below 150bpm. So far so good. Now it’s time to give your goal an end-point. How many consecutive miles do you want to be able to run? Three? Eight? Twenty?
When setting goals, it’s imperative to have a concrete finish line otherwise you’ll never know you’ve arrived. “I’m going to have better sex in 2018” is an excellent thought but how do you know you’ve achieved it? Instead, choose a goal with a tangible conclusion:
- “For Valentine’s Day, I’m giving my girlfriend 10 ‘Tickets for Free Oral Sex’”
- “I’m going to finish reading the Kama Sutra by April”
- “My wife and I are signing up for eight classes in tantric sexuality this summer”
In order to determine a solid goal, you talk to a couple of runners and check a few running websites. With more facts under your belt, you decide you’re going to run a 10k (6.2 mile) road race.
Step 4. Make it REALISTIC
Your current plan is to run a 10k race while staying below 150bpm. You have a specific, measurable goal with an achievable end-point. The next step is the beginning.
To make a realistic goal, you need to know your current capacity. Start by asking yourself, ‘Where am I now? What can I do today, this morning, this minute?’ Too many people choose goals that are unrealistic for their immediate skill set. It’s easy for someone to say “I’m going to make a million dollars this year” but if he’s a high-school dropout working at McDonalds for minimum wage it’s going to be all but impossible to accomplish his goal in 12 months (However, if he worked really hard he might be able to do it in 24 months).
To give yourself the best chance of accomplishing your goal, choose one that will be challenging but reasonable. In the above example, our Mickey D’s dreamer probably won’t become a millionaire in a year but he could easily increase his income by 20%. Losing 50 pounds in one month is unreasonable (not to mention unsafe) but losing 20 pounds in three months is very doable.
Do some testing, experiment a little, check your data and then plan accordingly.
After a few short runs, you find your heartrate on your FitBit is about 135bpm during your first mile, 160+ on your second mile and you have to walk after that. Great. Now you can start preparing for Step 5….
Step 5. Make it TIME-BOUND
Goals are dreams with a deadline. If you don’t have starting and ending dates for your goal, you don’t actually have a goal. You have a desire. Now desire is an amazing thing. It drives us to all of our true accomplishments. But in order for that desire to be realized it must be placed on a calendar.
You want to eliminate your credit card debt? Great idea. It’s one of the best financial decisions you can make. Cut up your cards, plan your timeline and then circle that end date on your calendar in red. Ready to travel more? Cool. You’ll never regret it. Add up how much your trips are going to cost, schedule the days off work and start saving for your adventure. Want to get stronger? Smarter? Be a better dad? Give back to your community? Whatever you want to do, make a specific goal with a beginning and ending, put it on your calendar and get ready to reap the benefits!
After crunching all the numbers, you decide to start a 12 week training program for your 10k. You sign up for your race. You pay your fees. You put it on your calendar. You train. You get stronger. You get faster. And three months later…voila! You’re in better shape than you have been in years.
The SMART goal-setting system works. I’ve been using it for over a year now and I’ll never look back. I challenge you to set SMART resolutions this year and make 2018 your most excellent yet!