Resolutions? Throw those things out!

How many years have you set resolutions in January only to give them up within the first week or two? How frustrated do you get at setting them and failing so early to complete any of them?

Something I’ve found that works better is to set goals. I know it sounds like semantics – “resolutions,” “goals,” whatever – but there IS a difference. Goals are defined as “the purpose toward which an endeavor is directed; an objective.” Resolutions are defined as:

1. A resolving to do something.
2. A course of action determined or decided on”

The problem with resolutions is that they generally simply represent a desire to do something, to achieve something, but with no plan of action. As a result, a few weeks after setting your “resolutions”, you’re off the path completely. When you set up goals, you generally also come up with smaller steps that will help you achieve the goal – a plan of action. With a plan of action, you can see when you drift off the path sooner and decide more clearly if you need to adjust your goal or what you need to do to actually achieve your goal.

When you are setting your goals for the year (or whatever time frame you chose), consider areas of your life that you would like to work on, improve, or change.  Some areas frequently on that list include Work, Personal/ Relationships, Family, Social, Spiritual, Exercise/Weight Loss.

One method I’ve found helpful in setting up goals is to make “SMART” goals. SMART goals are generally considered to be:

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, timely, tangible, trackable

S: are your goals specific, rather than vague? If they are too vague, there will be no way to know when you’ve achieved them. To make a specific goal, make sure that you include what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it by, and how you will achieve it.

M: are your goals measurable? If they are, anyone should be able to look at your progress and determine if you’ve achieved your goal. For example, “I want to learn to dance” is vague and immeasurable; most of us are born being able to “dance” (i.e., rock back and forth to music). A smarter goal would be “I want to learn to foxtrot by January 1, 2010.”

A: are your goals attainable? That is, can you achieve them realistically? It is a good thing to have goals that stretch you, that take you out of your comfort zone, but it is possible to set your goal in such a way that it isn’t realistic. For example, a person with a goal of “I want to be a professional dancer in six months” isn’t likely to achieve that goal if he’s the average person on the street. A more attainable goal for the average person would be “I want to dance a waltz at my daughter’s wedding in six months.” On the other hand, don’t set your goals too low either – a goal should challenge you to some extent, otherwise you’ll get bored with it.

R: are your goals realistic? Are they results-oriented? Are they reasonable? If they aren’t relevant to you, to your purpose in life or your belief system, then you aren’t likely to achieve them. For example, you may love commenting on football games to your friends, but do you really have the knowledge of all the positions, the training, and so forth to fill the air during a real game? Or, you may really enjoy cooking and do it well, but do you really have what it takes to run a successful big city restaurant?

T: are your goals time-based? Do you have a time frame for each one? If not, there is no motivation to get moving, no sense of urgency, no reason to take action today. An example of a time-based goal would be something along the lines of “I want to read one classic book a month for 12 months” or “I want to read one classic book each month from January to December 2009.”

Regardless of what you call them, they can really be motivating and stimulating, if done properly! Go out … and DO IT!

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Filed under Goals, Self-Improvement

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