New Year’s Resolutions and S.M.A.R.T Goals – Making Sense of Setting Goals

Every December, millions of people make New Year’s resolutions, the bulk of which usually revolve around some sort of self-improvement—weight loss, reading more, using social media less, and so on. People resolve to accomplish everything from going to the gym more frequently to giving up various vices like alcohol or nail biting. While positive change is good, by every year around this time, most of those goals have been abandoned. The level of time and ongoing commitment those goals required combined with the basic distractions of daily life have worn down what was once firm resolve.

Making beneficial changes is certainly a reasonable thing to do, and the new year—that time after the business of the holidays—seems like a built-in space for making those changes. With the distractions of parties, food, and gift-giving behind us, we can focus solely on how we want the coming year to unfold. So why is it that so many of our goals go unrealized? Because they’re not S.M.A.R.T goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

Specific: Specificity is key to setting good goals. Instead of saying, “I want to run more,” consider, “I want to be able to run one mile.”

Measurable: A measurable goal will allow you to set benchmarks for yourself so you can see your progress. To stick with the running metaphor, running “more” isn’t measurable; what does “more” mean? One mile, however, is measurable. With that measurable distance in place, you’ll be able to develop a plan that has you running farther each week.

Attainable: Make sure your goal is in reach. For example, if you’ve never run before, deciding to run a marathon in two months is likely too extreme, though it may become attainable at a later date.

Relevant: Goals are only worth setting if they’re relevant to you and how you want to grow as a person. Instead of deciding to learn to run because your friends run, you’ll be more successful if you have a genuine desire to run that mile.

Timely: Give yourself a timeline so you have an immediate urgency helping propel you forward. For example, “I want to be able to run a mile in six weeks.”

A Thriveworks Maumelle counselor can go over the S.M.A.R.T concept in more detail and help you apply it to your goals. Counseling isn’t just for those struggling with depression, trauma, or other disorders. The goal of counseling is to help you live your best life, and setting successful goals is part of creating that best life.

I’ll admit I was one of those who set goals and let them slip away—until I learned about the S.M.A.R.T concept. I realized the problem I was having related to timeliness. My goals were attainable, but not in the timeline I’d set for myself. Like so many others, I’m prone to underestimating the amount of time projects and goals will take me to achieve. Once I started adjusting my goals to make them attainable in a reasonable amount of time, my success rate started drastically improving.

I began by listing the goals I wanted to accomplish and narrowing them down a reasonable number. From there, I worked backward to figure out what steps would need to happen before the goal could be accomplished. Next, I took each of those steps and figured out how much work each of those would take. I scheduled time in my planner to work on each of those steps. Using a planner allows me to set aside time to work on goals, schedule progress check-ins, and remain realistic about how much I can accomplish actually in a day. Doing so prevents overscheduling and the associated stress.

Whatever your goals, Thriveworks Maumelle counselors are ready to help you achieve them. We don’t keep a waiting list, and we can usually see you within 24 hours of your call. Our expanded hours make seeking the help you need even easier—so don’t wait. If you’d like help setting and achieving goals, or if you need help in any other area of mental health, we’re here to help.

Thriveworks Maumelle can be reached at (501) 628-9066.

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