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Make SMARTer Resolutions This Year

Article and audio introduction by Samantha Kennedy, Family and Consumer Sciences
list of new year's resolutions

Setting lofty, unrealistic goals can often lead to discouragement and frustration. Smaller, incremental goals can help increase the odds of success. (Photo source: Samantha Kennedy)

Every year, millions of us make New Year’s resolutions in the hopes of implementing a few changes in our lives. We resolve to lose weight, eat healthier, save money, read more, or spend more time with our family.

Unfortunately, research shows that only about 8% of New Year’s resolutions are actually kept, which begs the question: Why do so few of us stick to the goals we set for ourselves?

In many cases, the answer is simple. We set the bar too high and become discouraged. Instead of losing 5 pounds, we want to lose 50. Instead of saving $10, we want to save $1000. Many resolutions are created with the overall end goal in mind, when we really should be focusing on making incremental changes.

Setting SMART Goals

The trick to successful goal-setting is crafting realistic goals that have a better chance of being reached. For example, instead of making the goal to lose 50 pounds, how about setting smaller goals to lose 5 pounds at a time until the overall goal of 50 pounds is met? These smaller goals help reduce frustration and discouragement and are more likely to lead to success.

Setting smaller, realistic goals is one of the major characteristics of what are known as SMART goals.  SMART goals are designed to be more specific and manageable, making them easier to achieve and leading to a better likelihood of success. The SMART acronym provides the five keys to creating better goals:

Specific. Goals should be targeted and specific. While it is great to want to “be healthier” in the upcoming year, what does that mean in specific terms? Does it mean reducing sodium intake? Cooking more meals at home? Losing 10 pounds? Implementing a walking routine? By setting specific goals, it will be easier to track progress.

Measurable. If there is no way to measure progress, then a goal is not very useful. Along with being specific, good goals need to be able to be tracked. Implementing a walking routine is one thing, but being able to set a distance or time goal will help make it more meaningful. If the goal is to walk 30 minutes a day five days a week, that is easily measured.

Achievable. The biggest key to any goal is not setting the bar too high. Too often, we want to set pie in the sky goals because we want to get to where we want to be right now. The problem with that, however, is that when we are not seeing the results we want, we get discouraged and give up. Setting smaller, more manageable goals will make them more achievable.

Relevant. We sometimes set goals for ourselves that get in the way of other, more important things. When setting goals, determine whether it is something that will really make a positive impact. Will working towards this goal prevent us from doing something else that requires our attention? If the goal will not ultimately work towards our overall endpoint, perhaps it is not worth pursuing.

Timed. Nebulous, open-ended goals are often ineffective because they leave too much time to achieve them. Consider this. If my goal is to lose 10 pounds, but I do not give myself a deadline by which to lose the weight, I am not holding myself accountable since I can just keep giving myself more and more time to reach my goal. However, if I set my goal to lose 10 pounds in 3 months, I am more likely to continue working towards my goal. Setting time limits can help increase the odds of success.

New Year’s goal setting is not a new concept. Neither is not achieving our New Year’s resolutions. However, by creating SMART goals for ourselves, we can help beat the odds and achieve our goals in 2019.

For more information, please call Samantha Kennedy at the Wakulla County Extension office at (850) 926-3931.

Extension classes are open to everyone regardless of race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations.

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