NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
The end of the year is often a time of looking back. What was great about the past year? What didn’t work so well? We often find ourselves performing a sort of audit on the past year so we can get a sense of closure prior to moving forward into the New Year.
I conducted such an audit on my life and came up with 15 serious personal and professional wins for the year (including regular blogging!), as well as three key areas of my life which didn’t go as well as I would have liked. This audit created a firm foundation for my 2011 planning and I highly recommend that you do something similar.
New Year’s Resolutions
The start of a new year is generally a time when we look forward instead of backwards. Many people set goals for the coming year, which are commonly referred to as “New Year’s Resolutions.” While such resolutions get a bad rap from many people (often because they are typically broken within a few short weeks), I am a fan of designating areas to work on in one’s life. In fact, this blog resulted from my wanting to change various areas of my life during 2010.
While my life is still a work in progress (as is the case for everyone), I have made excellent progress in healing various areas of my life since I set the intention to do so in early 2010. I will be posting on my progress shortly as we approach the one-year milestone of “The Healing Project” on February 3, 2011. Stay tuned…
Conducting an End of Year Review
To conduct my 2010 yearly review and plan for 2011, I used the following questions from Tony Robbins (paraphrased by me):
- What was great about 2010? What were your “magic moments”? What worked well for you?
- What didn’t work or wasn’t so good about 2010?
- What are you committed to for 2011?
- What structures are you going to put in place to help you honor those commitments?
The third and fourth questions posed by Tony Robbins are critical in terms of successfully achieving your goals. In my opinion, the main reason many New Year’s resolutions fail is that they are too general and don’t have any “teeth” behind them (the structures).
Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals
For a resolution or goal to come to fruition, it is critical that certain criteria are met. These criteria are commonly referred to in personal development circles as the S.M.A.R.T. principle. You may have heard of this principle before, but it bears repeating. When you set a goal, make sure that it is:
- Specific: Is your goal clearly stated? For example, instead of setting a resolution to “start working out,” a specific goal would perhaps be stated as “work out for at least 30 minutes four times per week.”
- Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached your goal?
- Action-Oriented: The best goals require that you take powerful and deliberate actions.
- Realistic: While it’s good to stretch yourself when setting goals, your goal should actually be reachable. It isn’t productive to set “pie-in-the-sky” goals which you don’t really believe you can achieve. A 40-year-old may not be able to win the Olympic marathon, but he may very well be able to finish a local marathon.
- Time-Based: Your goal should have an end-point; that is, a date by which it will be achieved. If you want to lose ten pounds, for instance, you should specify the date by which it will happen.
Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions
Often, what people call New Year’s resolutions are really more intentions than goals. They tend to be very general and most frequently do not meet the S.M.A.R.T. criteria. According to “The Goals Guy,” the top ten New Year’s Resolutions are as follows:
- Lose weight and get in better physical shape
- Stick to a budget
- Debt reduction
- Enjoy more quality time with family and friends
- Find one’s soul mate
- Quit smoking
- Find a better job
- Learn something new
- Volunteer and help others
- Get organized
All of these resolutions are admirable and worthwhile. However, they are also all very general and don’t adhere to the S.M.A.R.T. principle. The good news is that only a small amount of effort is needed to turn your generic resolution into a S.M.A.R.T. goal! Let’s use one of my 2011 resolutions as an example…
Making Your Goals S.M.A.R.T.
One of my intentions for 2011 is to decrease my spending, particularly on clothing and books (similar to #2 above). Here is a possible way to make this goal S.M.A.R.T., as well as a few possible structures I could put in place to increase my chances of actually achieving it.
S.M.A.R.T. goal: I will decrease my 2011 spending on clothing and books by 25% as compared to 2010 expenditures.
- Create a monthly budget for both clothing and books.
- Keep purchase logs for both clothing and books. Review monthly.
- Return clothing items if not worn within 30 days.
It’s Your Turn!
I hope my example was helpful! Now it’s your turn. Take that “lose weight” or “get organized” resolution and make it S.M.A.R.T. But don’t stop there! Create a few structures to put in place for you to remain conscious of your goal and to increase the possibility of bringing it to fruition.
And don’t be afraid to recalibrate your goals over the course of the year. Sometimes your circumstances change and your goals shift as well. Finally, if you struggle along the way, forgive yourself, recommit and move on. We all experience bumps in the road. After all, it is said that it took over 500 tries for Thomas Edison to create the light bulb. But he didn’t give up, and neither should you! Each day we are alive represents a new chance to create a powerful future and fulfill our dreams. It’s not too late – and you are worth it!