Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Why New Year Resolutions Fail and How to Make SMART Goals

The ball dropped, a new calendar was purchased and it's the time of year that everyone asks "where did the year go?".  It can only mean one thing, if the year changed, so must you.  Time to make those New Year Resolutions.  What is your resolution that is going to make 2013 a stellar year?  Last year a poll was conducted on the most common resolutions, here are the results:
37% stated they intend to lose weight
18% stated they don't make resolutions
12% stated they wanted to spend more time with friends and family
12% stated they were going to get out of debt
7% were going to quit drinking or smoking
 Missing off this list but related to losing weight would be going to the gym more or simply getting more fit.  The bottom line is resolutions fail because they can never really succeed.  If you resolve in 2013 to quit smoking or drinking, and on 12/31/13 you have not been sober or tobacco free for at least several weeks, then you can say your resolution was a success.  If however, you resolve to lose weight in 2013, then you must be more specific in order to measure success.

Resolutions are nothing more than goals.  Most people think setting goals are easy, but in fact they can be quite challenging.  In order to set goals you must be SMART.  This goes for professional, personal and athletic/competition goals.

  • S- Specific.  Goals must be specific.  Getting in better shape is non-specific.  Running a mile in under 6 minutes is an example of a specific goal.
  • M- Measurable.  In order for a goal to be successful you must know when you have reached the benchmarks or the goal itself.  Instead of having a goal to lose weight you must set a number to reach.  This number could be pounds lost or inches around the waist.  Regardless you must know when you have reached your goal.
  • A- Attainable.  Think of this as being capable of achieving your goals regardless of outside influences.  Those individuals who say they have a goal, or resolution, to spend more time with friends and family might do everything in their power to achieve that goal, but friends and family might be too busy.  Athletes should choose goals that can be obtained regardless of the competition.  I know it sounds strange, but if your season goal is to win Nationals and you train hard, show up on race day, and end up getting out sprinted or team tactics played into a different outcome, then you have set yourself up for failure.  You did everything possible but the day did not go your way because of influences beyond your control.  Instead set a goal for a sub 1hour 40k TT, or a PR on a 10k run.  You can still strive to win Nationals, but it shouldn't be your season goal.
  • R- Realistic.  I am 36 years old.  I should probably start thinking that my goal of an Olympic gold medal is not very realistic.  For weight loss goals, regardless what you see on the Biggest Loser, long term weight loss of more than 3 pounds a week is not realistic.  You want your goals to challenge you, but not make them impossible.  Shoot too low and you will reach them too fast.  Shoot too high and you will get discouraged and give up.
  • T- Timely.  Your goals need to be time sensitive.  Set smaller goals leading up to the big goal.  For weight loss you might have an overall goal of 25 pounds to lose.  Set a date to lose this weight.  It would be realistic for you to lose this weight in 8 weeks.  If you have a spring break trip planned, use that date as benchmark date for your goal weight.  
Whatever resolutions were made while raising a toast with friends and family, look at it closely and use this system to refine them and make them SMART goals.  Good luck in the new year.

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