Goal Setting: Make Goals, Not Resolutions


January 2, 2012 by Darlene McC

This should sound familiar: sometime between Dec 16th and Jan 5th(ish) you or someone you love, after reflecting back on the previous year, their life, their waist, or whatever else they’re musing about, will declare for all to hear “My New Years resolution is ____”.  According to usa.gov the most common resolutions are (this is a condensed list):

  • Drink less
  • Eat better
  • Get a better: education, job, whatever
  • Get fit/lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Save money

But lets fast forward on that same friend (or ourselves) 2 or 3 weeks.  They blew into the New Year, without a plan, proclaiming their new found willpower to the free world…and then fell on their face.  We’ve all done it.  I can remember as a teen having a list of half a dozen resolutions that were going to make me a better person magically at midnight.  I’d wiggle on them, then I’d wobble, then I’d ungracefully fall flat on my face in a catastrophic failure of all six at the same time.  Next year I’d come around to the same and, sure enough, do a rinse and repeat.

Sound familiar?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Well, because the word “resolution”, when mumbled (or shouted) in the New Years sense, has been watered down.  It’s not concrete (with the exception of Quit Smoking – that’s cut and dry and you should do it).  The phrase “Eat Better” or “Save Money” isn’t specific and doesn’t have a timeline.  How will you know when you’ve achieved it?  And there’s no wiggle room for the natural progress that takes place while working toward a goal.

Here’s my personal development challenge to the world:

Make Goals, Not Resolution

And not just any goals: SMART goals.  What the hell does that mean?  Well, SMART is a mnemonic for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.  And again: what does that mean?

  • Specific – What are you doing? (losing weight?  saving money?  here’s your resolution overlap, and where resolutions stop and fall short)
  • Measurable – How much money?  How many pounds?  How many drinks a week are too many?
  • Attainable – Can you do it?  You’re not going to lose 20 lbs in 2 weeks (at least most people wont).  But you could lose 20 lbs in 20 weeks if you work hard.  Set yourself up for success.
  • Relevant – You have to care enough.  That’s straight up.
  • Time-Bound – If you don’t give yourself a due date there’s no pressure to achieve.  When!?!

Another thing about goals: you work toward them.  Resolutions are black and white: either you do it or you fail.  A goal is something you strive to achieve.  You make a plan, and if there are setbacks you adjust the plan.  And goals can be broken down into smaller micro-goals.  [For example: You want to lose 20 lbs in 20 weeks; then you’d better be losing 1 lb a week.  Which means creating a 3,500 cal deficit every week (there are 3,500 calories of in a lb of fat).  That’s a 500 calorie shortage per day micro goal.  Plus workouts, of course!]

Do yourself 2 favors: when reflecting back on yourself over the last year and looking at your current life give yourself a break.  You’re great, you’re beautiful.  The other: look forward to the year with it’s fullest potential and set yourself SMART goals to reach that potential.  Break those goals into half step goals.  Then half of each of those goals.  Break them down to the smallest micro goals as you need them to be to succeed.

Then, tell resolutions to bug off.

5 thoughts on “Goal Setting: Make Goals, Not Resolutions

  1. […] so we’ve talked about goals – and specifically why they’re more useful than resolutions for actually improving your […]

  2. […] It’s two months into 2012: check yourself.  How’re you doing on those goals you spent the first weeks of the year mapping out?  (if you didn’t bother, go back and do it punk ass!) […]

  3. […] next year.  Maybe lose some weight; maybe go back to school or save some money.  They should be SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-specific).  But how do you get there? […]

  4. Mom says:

    Read the goals not resolutions and I thought you were talking directly to me.

  5. […] 2013 is just around the corner. If you’ve read UA for a little while you may know we believe resolutions are useless. Real change comes in setting attainable goals and making a plan to obtain […]

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