Well it’s that time of year again. The New Year, which often involves New Year’s resolutions. Researchers say around 88% of New Year’s resolutions fail. That is a staggering high number. The question becomes; “Why are so many people not achieving their resolutions?”. I would argue that the questions should be, “Is a New Years resolution the best way to create a new chapter in the new year?”, and “If I do make a resolution, how do I increase the chance of accomplishing it?“.
Before getting into an understanding of how to make a good resolution, it is important to define resolutions and goals. Resolutions are a strict lifestyle change of “I’m going to change this” while a goal is a specific quantifiable change often with an addition of a specific time frame. For example, a resolution may be “I’m going to stop eating junk food”, compared to a goal as “I’m going to lose 50lbs by March.” Now, I want you to sit back and think: am I making a resolution or goal? Often, goals can be more attainable, when done appropriately, as they are often smaller and measurable within a set time frame.
But the question becomes, how can you create a wise goal? Often people speak of making SMART goals:
S – Simplistic: Are you able to describe your goal in one sentence to someone who does not know you? With only one sentence, can the other person have a reasonable understanding of how the goal will look?
M – Manageable: Can you make time to focus on the goal within your schedule and current commitments?
A – Attainable: How easy will it be to achieve this goal? Is it a goal that you can complete if you do not have the time to focus on it?
R – Reasonable: Is it a goal that another individual would judge as possible?
T – Timely: How long do you expect the goal to take? Will there be immediate results to keep you motivated?
How would this look in practice? Let’s take the earlier example of weight loss.
The goal is to lose 50lbs by March 30.
Is this a manageable task? It means losing an average of 4.16lbs a week consistently.
Is this attainable? The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention suggests a healthy loss is 1-2 lbs a week, meaning this goal is not likely to be attainable.
Is it reasonable? With weight loss, it often varies on who you speak with, so let me ask you as the reader – do you think it is reasonable?
Is this goal timely? Yes, it has a clear deadline that is not excessively distant.
When viewing this goal in the SMART breakdown, it does not appear to be the wisest of goals. Physically, it is not healthy to have such a high degree of weight loss in a short time. Mentally, the goal is high and strict with an unrealistic timeline, the likely cause is undue stress and feelings of failure and frustration when one fails to accomplish the goal.
A similar breakdown can be used with resolutions but there will be 2 similar problems that will come up regardless of the resolution. The first being manageable, when making a lifestyle change, what are the protections put in place to help deal when one has hiccups? The other is the time, lifestyle changes are without an end. Granted, once a habit has developed, it is easy, but there is no set time frame on how long it can take to develop.
So what do we do? Setting goals can be helpful but often are too lofty. The concept of a resolution is nice, because it motivates us to make a big change that we want to make. The key is to create a goal within your resolution. Develop a step plan that lists where you want to be at specific time intervals. Be kind to yourself; change does not happen over night and forgive yourself when you have hiccups. What rewards will you have when you accomplish each step? Ensure that the resolution is reasonable and one that is possible for you to complete and enjoy while you achieve it.
Resolution: To be more financially stable and responsible.
For the first month I will only buy coffee 3 times a week, and the rest of the week I will make it at home. During this month I will begin to meal plan and prep meals for the week on Sunday.
The next few months I will focus on meal planning and decreasing the times I am buying coffee and eating out. At the end of each month, the extra money in my account will go to my Credit card debt.
By April, I want to be only buying coffee 4 times a month and eating out 2 times a month. I will keep birthday gifts to a maximum limit of $50 per person. To help with groceries, I am going to create a list and stick to this list and not buy things because they are on sale or look tasty.
By September I want to have $2000 down on my Credit card.
Christmas next year I am going to only buy a maximum of 2 gifts per person and keep my price below $600 for everyone.
This explanation is much more detailed than maybe you may want or need, but it gives an idea of how to break down the resolution into quantifiable and manageable chunks. The important thing to remember is to have something that you can see a change in and to give yourself grace for the hiccups.
Remember, a desire to change and enact on the change is healthy and manageable. Just do it SMART.
References: https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/2489711/new-years-resolutions-2018-how-long-kept/ https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/