As the first week of January comes to an end, and there is a wave of good intentions for the coming year, there will be many of us who have engaged in the tradition of creating our new year resolutions.
I believe that new year resolutions should be goals that will challenge us and are also realistic. I also believe that such goal setting shouldn’t be restricted to January but should take place continually throughout the year.
New year resolutions make me think of the simple concept of SMART goals which are often used in the workplace to stretch people and monitor progress and performance. There are a few variations of what ‘SMART’ stands for but I prefer:
SMART goals are very versatile and don’t have to be restricted to the workplace, so can easily be used in our personal lives. We can use a typical new year resolution of ‘I want to get physically fit’ and assess how ‘SMART’ it is.
Straight away this seems quite a vague resolution. We are unsure whether we can measure it as we don’t know what level of fitness we are starting at and therefore comparing it to. As it is not specific we also cannot judge whether it is achievable and relevant. Finally, it isn’t timebound. When do they want to get physically fit by? A month? 6 months? We just don’t know. On reflection, this doesn’t really meet the SMART framework and I am left pondering what will happen when, at some point in the future, they review their new year resolution. What will this do for their confidence and motivation levels?
Let’s compare this to the goal ‘I want to be able to run 5 kilometres by the end of June 2017. I will use the Couch to 5k plan (which I have downloaded to my phone already) to support me to achieve this, as it will gradually build up my running stamina.’
Is it specific? Yes. There is a very specific task (running) and distance (5k).
Is it measurable? Yes. At the end of June they can assess whether they have achieved it or not. If they haven’t they can still review what progress they have made e.g. they can’t run 5k but they can run 4k.
Is it achievable & relevant? With the extra information that has been added around using a specific plan and why they want to use that plan, it indicates that it is achievable and relevant.
Is it timebound? Yes. There is a very clear deadline.
By having a SMART goal they can really assess what they have achieved once they get to the end of June. If they have achieved it – fantastic and what a great motivation to set a new goal to achieve. If they haven’t, then they can reflect on why not, taking into consideration any barriers they have faced and use it as a learning experience.
I truly believe that having goals to aim for is central to our resilience and wellbeing and helps us to refocus when life throws things into our path to try and knock us down. We all need to challenge ourselves and actively seek new opportunities so that we can learn and develop – both in the workplace and in our lives generally.
So rather than setting vague new year resolutions once a year, perhaps we should be regulary thinking about what we REALLY want from life and then turn that desire into goals. That way, when we reach them, it will give us an amazing sense of achievement, success and boost our confidence levels. Why not give it a try?