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Research shows that only eight percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions are able to achieve their goals.1 For the other 92 percent who don’t, feelings of guilt and failure can become bigger than the resolution itself, contributing to negative feelings about yourself and even about goals altogether.

Does this mean you should skip the resolutions this year? Not at all. Instead, make sure any New Year’s resolutions you make are made the SMART way: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

Specific

A specific resolution is easier to track than a vague one. Specific resolutions have an identified goal and a plan for how to get there. Instead of making a general resolution to lose weight, resolve to lose one pound a week for 20 weeks by cutting out fast food and exercising for 30 minutes three days a week.

Measurable

Measurable resolutions give you the opportunity to keep tabs on your progress and evaluate your success as you go. In the example above, the resolution is measurable because you can weigh in each week to see how you’re doing. Measuring your progress as you go and seeing the results of your hard work can help keep you motivated to achieve your goal.

Achievable

Setting unattainable resolutions is the number-one way to fail to achieve them. It’s easy to think of a new year as a clean slate and somehow believe you’re going to be a whole different person starting January 1. The reality is that you’ll be the same person on January 1 that you are now.

When you set your New Year’s resolution, take yourself into account and set goals that are achievable. Instead of resolving to improve your mindfulness and reduce your stress by meditating for a full hour every day, which is probably very unrealistic, resolve instead to meditate for 20 minutes before coffee at least two days a week. This gives you a little leeway, and if you end up exceeding your goal then your self-confidence will be that much higher.

Realistic

Realistic goals reflect who you are and what you’re capable of. If you’ve never run more than a mile in your life, it’s unrealistic to resolve to run a marathon next month. Instead, set out to make running a habit by starting small and using an app like the Couch to 5K Running Plan, and resolve to run a 5K in three months. From there, you can set new goals of longer distances as you develop your talent as a runner.

Time-Bound

Setting a time frame in which to accomplish a resolution is essential for staying on track and maintaining your motivation to succeed. Having a deadline increases your sense of urgency, which helps you stay on top of the goal. Be sure to make your deadlines realistic. Losing 20 pounds in five weeks is unrealistic and unsustainable. Doing it in 20 weeks is realistic, and it leaves open the possibility that you can exceed your expectations and meet the goal in 15 weeks by losing an additional half-pound a week.

Write Down Your Resolutions

According to Harvard University, identifying goals increases motivation and improves the odds of success.2 It leads to greater persistence, creativity and risk-taking in order to reach the goal. Studies show that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them.

Write your resolutions down on a piece of paper, and post them where you’ll see them every day. Include a list of reasons why you’re making the resolutions. When you feel your motivation flagging, read over your list to remind you why you want to achieve them.


References:

  1. http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20161220-why-your-new-years-resolutions-often-fail
  2. https://hilt.harvard.edu/files/hilt/files/settinggoals.pdf