For 2013, set goals, not resolutions

Paula Reece

We’re approaching a new year and the overwhelming tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Every Jan. 1 becomes the day in which we write down the list of items that proclaims this will be the year we change our lives for the better. We’ll lose weight, break bad habits and save money.

Will your list for the new year look like your list for last year? For most of us, they’re  very similar. Why are New Year’s resolutions unsuccessful? Simply put, it’s because there isn’t a plan to follow.  

This year, don’t call your good intentions for change New Year’s resolutions. Call them  goals. The reason I encourage the change is this: Goals work. Goals mean action. Goals mean there’s a plan.

Most of us make lists for the grocery store or errands that need to be run. We create an agenda for a meeting. These all have one thing in common — something needs to be done and here’s how we intend to do it. Whether you realize it or not, you set mini goals each day, regardless if they’re on paper or a mental list in your mind.

When you write down your goals for 2013, begin by asking yourself some basic questions as to why you want to do this and how it will change your life if you achieve your goals. The second step is to prioritize the items according what’s most important to you.  Having a goal list of only a few items you’re serious about will make it easier to devote the time and attention needed to achieve success.

Take one item at a time and turn them into goals. Try using the SMART system when writing down your goal. For example, you may have written down that your No. 1 goal is to lose weight.  Beginning with “S,” make your goal specific. The “M” stands for measurable. You have to be able to measure your progress. “A” stands for attainable. Put your goals into smaller mini goals. Just think of the punch line to the joke “How do you eat an elephant?” You eat it one bite at a time. The “R” stands for reasonable. This is where many people create unrealistic goals. Create a goal that you can actually see yourself completing. The “T” stands for timely. Goals take time to achieve. You need to know how much time you are willing to give to achieve your goal. Most importantly, give yourself a timeline of when you want to achieve your goal.

Here’s how I’d write the goal of losing weight using the SMART system: “I will lose a total of 15 pounds this year. I will lose 5 pounds by Valentine’s Day, 5 more pounds by March 15 and the final 5 pounds by May 15 in time for my daughter’s college graduation.  I will achieve my goal by exercising at least three to five days a week. I will include cardiovascular exercise, strength training and flexibility exercises. I will record my exercise and keep a food journal to hold myself accountable. I will ask my family to help me. I will buy a new dress for the graduation when I reach my goal.”

This goal has all the parts that can lead to success. This system is what makes the difference between actually achieving the goals you want to achieve to enhance your life or waiting until January 2014 and putting the same items back on your list.  Challenge yourself to write goals this year, not resolutions.