We all need help sticking to our New Year’s resolutions. Whether your goal is to walk more often, eat a healthier diet, or read more literature, there’s a smart way to go about it.
And by smart, we mean SMART. The SMART Goal system is often used in healthcare, business, and education. But it also has a lot to offer us as we try to stick to our 2022 resolutions.
The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Consider these five characteristics your overall compass in how you chart your course for the new year. These criteria will not only ensure that you keep your intentions realistic. They’ll also lead you to small successes that are sure to multiply and transform into lasting change.
Keep your goals SPECIFIC
When you’re out walking, you have a specific start point and an end point. In between, you have a map in your mind of how to get from A to B. And so it should be with your 2022 goals. If you plan out each step you need to take, you’ll set yourself up for success.
For example, it’s not enough to say that you want to be in better shape. Improving your fitness level can take many forms. You’ll succeed if you plan ahead of time exactly what you’re going to do. Maybe you want to walk four miles a day. That’s a great goal. And it’s even more specific to map out your walking route around the neighborhood or in a nearby park. Then make an unbreakable appointment with your walking shoes; you’ll know precisely where to start, where to end, and what time to show up.
(If getting in walking shape is your resolution, we’ve got you covered: download our FREE Six-Week “Couch to 10K Training Plan” here.)
Make your progress MEASURABLE
If you use a fitness app, you know that measuring your walking time or mileage can help you feel quite accomplished. (And if you’ve just gotten off a long hike, it can make you feel downright smug – hey, we’ve all been there!) These apps are on to something. They know that quantifying your activities and seeing yourself improve week to week is rewarding all by itself. If fitness of any sort is your goal, you would do well to record your walks, runs, or bike rides – even if in a log book. But what if your aims for 2022 aren’t necessarily about fitness?
Be creative. If you want to cook more, give your culinary adventures a theme. Learn some techniques in French cooking, for instance, and jot down on your recipe what’s working and what you can improve. (“Needs salt.” “Too buttery.”) Showcase your budding talents three or four nights a week for your household. Mark the dishes you’ve prepared on your calendar so you can look back and build on your progress. And share some photos from your one-person French cooking class with friends.
Make your resolution ATTAINABLE
We’ve all had stretch goals. But for 2022, keep your initial intention within reach. Why? Because you’re more likely to benefit from the sweet smell of success. You can leave the stretch for later.
There a few ways to make your resolutions attainable. First, scatter some cues around the house to remind you of your goal. Want to call your friends more often? Keep their phone numbers visible so you’ll remember. Are you committed to walking every day? Leave your walking boots and poles inside the house instead of on the porch so you’ll see them every day. Second, remove barriers that get in the way of reaching your goal, whether by blocking time on your calendar each day as “me time” or banning cookies, ice cream, and other sweets from your house. Third, break your resolution into micro-goals. If you want to lose 10 pounds, set your sights on ½ pound per week by replacing potato chips with carrot sticks. Your feeling of satisfaction will motivate you to keep going.
Keep it RELEVANT to you
This might sound very obvious, but too often we set goals for ourselves that don’t resonate with our lifestyles or even our values. If you want to be more fit but it’s been a while since you worked out, you need to tailor your workouts to your ability, otherwise you’ll get discouraged and throw in the towel. If you want to lose weight, be sure to find a weight-loss program that suits your tastes; the keto diet, for instance, won’t work if you’re not a big meat-eater to start.
Think about the motivation behind your resolution, too. You might want to volunteer at the food bank so you can feel part of the community. Or do more yoga so your back pain will go away. Or get into walking shape so you can travel with Country Walkers in 2022! All these motivations are relevant to you and go a long way in keeping you committed to your resolution.
Your resolution must be TIME-BOUND
There’s nothing like a deadline to motivate you. As you define your resolution, you need an endpoint where you’ll assess your progress and consider what comes next.
It’s not enough to say that you’ll walk more or sort through the attic boxes “this year.” Instead, you need to specify when you’ll hit the trails – four days a week for an hour after dinner for 10 weeks. And put aside specific hours when you’ll attack those boxes, like every Saturday morning from 9-11. Make sure your timeframes are reasonable for you (see “RELEVANT,” above).
Be kind to yourself! New Year’s resolutions are a way to herald new habits into our lives. And establishing new habits is hard. Change takes time and it’s okay to miss a goal or revert to old ways. The important thing is to remind yourself why you committed yourself to your resolution in the first place, keep your eyes on the rewards, and celebrate your small successes along the way.