Every year on January 1st millions of Americans set New Year's Resolutions. After one week, about 25% of folks have already failed. By the end of the year, 91% of people who set New Year's Resolutions have not achieved them. This is because we're not thinking about resolutions the right way.
We need to set New Year's Resolutions the way we set annual goals at work. You would never commit to a work goal without a strategy, but we regularly commit to resolutions without a plan. Would you promise your boss that you'll eat healthier when you can't remember the last time you had a salad? Eating healthier has a nice ambitious ring to it that feels satisfying in January but becomes forgotten by February amidst morning work calls and clamoring children.
The goal-setting secret that every entrepreneur knows is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. The acronym first appeared in a 1981 article by George Doran. There have been multiple variations of the acronyms, but the version that I've found most helpful at my startup Kuli Kuli is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Let's take the most common Resolution for 2022 - exercising more - and put it to the test. After a holiday season filled with candy, comfort food and lounging inside, you might feel extra motivated to hit the gym. But if the statistics are true, your current New Year's Resolution willpower will fade without a concrete strategy.
First, let's get Specific. What does "exercising more" mean to you? Are you joining a gym, or dusting off those running shoes? Let's say that you want to go to the gym more often.
Next make it Measurable. What counts as working out "more often" in your world? Would you be happy with hitting the gym once a day, once a week, or even once a month? Are you trying to spend a certain amount of time at the gym? Or hit a certain calorie target? Let's decide that we want to go to the gym twice a week, for at least 45 minutes each time.
But is this Achievable? This is the right time to think about how much you're currently exercising. If you have trouble remembering what a gym looks like, exercising twice a week is not easily achievable. You're likely to quickly drop an unrealistic goal. In this scenario, you're likely to sign-up for an expensive gym membership, work out a few times, and then quickly decide this whole resolution thing isn't for you.
That's where Relevancy comes in. Why is exercising more important to you? Are you having health problems? Are you looking to reduce your weight? Perhaps you want to set a healthy example for your children? Or maybe you just think you'll feel better if you work out more. Whatever the reason is, it's important that you clearly think through how the goal is relevant to your life. This makes it much more likely that you'll keep working towards it, even in times of difficulty.
Last but not least is Time-bound. You might be thinking to yourself - well, it's a New Year's Resolution so it's already time-bound as an annual goal. This is where a lot of people go wrong. Simply put, a year is too long for us to be striving towards a singular goal. Instead, break your goal into smaller monthly or weekly sprints. To continue with our current example, if you're currently exercising once a week, and want to exercise every day, set a goal of exercising twice a week for two weeks. Then try three times a week for two weeks. Then every other day, and so forth until you've achieved your optimal level.
If done right, these SMART goals will help you create a plan that will quickly turn into a pattern. This pattern will become a habit, and you'll eventually get to the point where you no longer have to make a conscious decision about whether or not to work out that morning. Your subconscious brain will already be lacing up your gym shoes before your conscious brain knows whats happening.
We all deserve to live a life that we're excited about - and resolutions can help us get there. But to succeed, we need to set ourselves up for success. Turning your resolutions into SMART goals helps you do that. By clearly defining your goals, making them realistic, setting a clear timeline, and developing a regular pattern, you'll have all the tools you need to create an even better you in 2022.