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Be S.M.A.R.T. and Say “NO” to Resolutions in 2021

Resolutions Rarely Succeed

Since the time of the Babylonians, people have used the transition to a new calendar year as a time to make positive changes (history.com). Unfortunately, few people actually follow through with these commitments. In fact, only about 20% of those who set resolutions actually keep them (Mills, J. 2020). Why is the success rate so low? Perhaps it is because most resolutions are too vague, too unrealistic or even not challenging enough to motivate (Locke & Latham, 1994).

Say “Yes” to S.M.A.R.T.

If you want to have a better chance of success, why not say “NO” to resolutions and say “YES” to S.M.A.R.T goals? The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Our 4-H members are encouraged to set these types of goals at the beginning of every program year to record what they hope to achieve in their 4-H projects. These goals are revisited at the end the end of the year to determine if they have been met. If a goal was not achieved, then it is included in the project plan for the following year.

Make it S.M.A.R.T.

So why is S.M.A.R.T better? To see the difference, let’s look at an example. A common resolution is “I want to eat healthier in 2021.” This is a very worthy goal to set for ourselves. However, it would be very difficult to determine if it was achieved without more information. How healthy do you eat now? What is healthier? How will you know if you are actually making enough of a change to matter?

Let’s try to convert this resolution to S.M.A.R.T. goal instead. To make it specific we must add detail. Perhaps “healthier” could be defined as reaching the U.S.D.A recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables each day. This is also measurable and easy to track. It is achievable with proper planning and discipline and it is certainly relevant to our health and well-being. That just leaves the “T” for time-bound. This is where many of us set us ourselves up to fail. When do we want to have this accomplished? It is easy to say I will start tomorrow and then kick the can down the road until our lack of progress drains away every bit of motivation. Instead, add a time limit. This could be for a week or a month. After reaching that goal, the next step would be to maintain the new healthy habit until it becomes the norm.

So as we move toward New Year’s Day, be S.M.A.R.T. and say “NO” to Resolutions in 2021!