New Year’s Resolutions That Work

Shortly after the last bit of confetti settles to the floor and the noisemakers stop making noise, many people begin the task of living up to their New Year’s resolutions. I don’t have any statistics on how many people fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions (somebody probably keeps track of this – much of life is now recorded in statistics the way only baseball used to be), but I’m sure the percentage is high. I think I know why. Most New Year’s resolutions break all the rules for successful life change.

Many New Year’s resolutions are vague. You the type: I’ll get into better shape. I’ll keep a neater office. What does it really look like to act on these resolutions? Will you (or others) recognize that you have kept your resolution?

How do you know when you’ve truly kept your resolution? How do you know that you have really gotten into shape? Is it when you can bench press your weight? Is it when you lose three inches from your waist? Is it when the bullies no longer kick sand in your face at the beach? Is it when you can see your shoes without leaning over? How do you know when you’ve reached your goal?

Are you beginning to see the problem? But there’s more.

Some resolutions go to extremes. They might be too easy so we ignore them, while others are almost completely unattainable. We’ve all heard people resolve to lose five pounds. They think they’re doing themselves a favor by taking on an easy target, but it’s very easy to procrastinate (and ultimately ignore) a goal that doesn’t require much effort. Other resolutions, such as, “I’m going to publish a novel.” could be completely out of reach.

Just as some resolutions are vague, others focus on intangibles. I resolve to be a better husband. I resolve to keep my sense of humor, even when things get tough. How would you know where to begin on something like this?

On the other hand, the New Year’s resolutions that we keep are a lot like good business and personal goals, they are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

You’ve probably seen the term “SMART Goals” before. It’s a concept that’s been in wide use for quite a while for a good reason: the acronym is easy to remember and the concept works.

Let’s rework some of these resolutions above into SMART goals.

Specific: I’ll join the health club and work out for an hour three days each week. It’s easy to see what this goal looks like now.

Measurable: My first fitness goal is to be able to run a mile in 10 minutes. You can time a mile run with a stopwatch. It’s impossible to measure “get fit.” Now you’ll be able to tell when you’ve reached this goal.

Attainable: I’m going to lose enough weight so my body fat composition drops from 35% to 25%. This much change will take some attention and effort. It will keep you occupied and challenged long enough to be and feel like a real achievement.

Realistic: I will complete my novel and submit it to an appropriate publisher by the end of the year. It’s absolutely necessary to have control over the actions that go into reaching your goal. A writer must rely on an editor’s decision to public a new book. No control there. But a writer can control the writing of the book.

Time-based: I’ll lose five pounds by the end of March. Putting a deadline on meeting your goal does two good things. First, it puts pressure on you to start immediately. Second, having a deadline makes it easy to measure your progress. By the end of January, I should be about one-third of my way to my goal. So now it’s February 1: am I a third of the way to losing 5 pounds?

Now, where do you stand on making resolutions for your business? Have you set learning targets for this year? If you have, do your goals meet the SMART test? Do your employees know what the goals are? Do you have concrete plans for reaching your goals? It’s still early in January and there’s plenty of time to make corrections and set a worthy course for the year. Just make sure your goals are SMART and you’re well on your way.


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