I used to work in a day treatment group therapy program. The group members would come to our program everyday during the week and dig deep into themselves to work on improving relationships and finding more happiness. Clients often cried, connected with other group members and learned a lot about their feelings. So, it came as a big surprise to me that clients over and over again identified, as one of the groups that helped them the most, not one of those heart-wrenching, digging-deep groups but a structured goal-setting group. It turned out that many of our clients really liked learning how to set goals for themselves that they could accomplish.
Clients were given the SMART acronym to use when choosing goals. Each week clients picked a new goal and reviewed the progress on the previous week's goal.
I think this fits with making a New Year's Resolution that is "doable." Here's how it breaks down:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Relevant
T = Time-limited
When setting a goal, or in this case, a resolution, you need to ask yourself if it meets with the standards of the SMART acroynm.
Let's use a couple of classic examples:
1) I will get in shape.
2) I will spend more time with my family and work less.
Both of these, as they are currently worded, are terrible resolutions. There is no way to measure if you are achieving your goal and it meets none of the criteria we set above. Now, we will tailor the goals.
S for Specific: Goals should address the five Ws… who, what, when, where, and why. Be specific about what you want. Do you want to lose weight? Tone up? Is this exercise or diet related? In terms of the other example, who all do you mean by "family" and what work are you referring to? Use action verbs… create, design, develop, implement, produce, etc.
M for Measurable: Goals should include numeric or descriptive measures that define quantity, quality, cost, etc. How will you measure being in shape? Is it how much exercise you do? Or, how much weight you lose? How much time will you spend with family? How much less work will you do?
A for Achievable: Goals should be within your capacity. Is the goal achievable with the available resources? Is the goal achievable within the timeframe originally outlined? Don't make your goal "I will work out everyday for an hour" if you can't realistically put that much time aside in your schedule. Likewise, "I will lose 40 pounds in the next three months" may be setting yourself up for failure. Consider what is realistic and achievable.
R for Relevant: Why is the goal/resolution important? How will the goal help you in your life? Why is spending more time with your family important?
T for Time: Goals should identify a definite target date for completion and/or frequencies for specific action steps that are important for achieving the goal. "I will complete this goal by December 31, 2013" or "I will workout for 3 hours a week over the next 6 months."
So, back to our original examples:
"I will get in shape" becomes "I will exercise (take a walk, run, attend a yoga class, play soccer, go on a bike ride) for three hours a week over the course of 2013" or if it diet-related, "I will stop drinking pop and increase my water consumption to 6 glasses of water a day" (If you haven't read my post about the dangers of sugar, real or as a metaphor, then check out this video and you will be inspired to try this resolution).
"I will spend more time with my family and work less" is trickier to work with because there is a lot left to be imagined in this resolution. I am picturing a man who feels guilty for his time spent at work or doing work-related tasks at home. So, that is the scenario I will use. How about, "I will not work on the weekends and will be available to my children and spouse for time together for all of 2013." Or, "I will spend dinner with the family every night without phone call interruptions and only check email once per night for a maximum of 20 minutes over the next 3 months."
If you make specific goals that are achievable, measurable, realistic and time-bound, you are way more likely to be able to follow through. Good luck!