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Davis Journal

How to make your New Year’s resolutions stick

Jan 02, 2024 03:08PM ● By Braden Nelsen

There are no bones about it: New Year’s resolutions are tough. No matter what it is, it seems that by February, most have already abandoned their goals, and are already looking forward to setting that very same goal next year.

So, how does one combat it? Is it possible to actually set a New Year’s resolution and stick to it? Absolutely. In order to ensure that these resolutions don’t get swept up like so much confetti, the setting of the goal itself will take more work than most of us are used to, but when followed to the letter, these steps are a surefire way to achieve any goal, not just those pesky resolutions.

The key to success with any goal is to be smart about it, and these steps are no exception. In fact, the word “smart” provides a handy acronym to remember what is necessary to accomplish any goal, especially if goals are difficult to achieve. While you may have heard of “smart goals,” this time of year is the best time for a quick refresher. 

First off, goals must be Specific. It’s not enough to simply say, “I will work out more in 2024.” A nebulous goal like that leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and can easily downgrade what could be a growth-provoking goal into simply maintaining the status quo. 

Therefore, instead of setting the ambiguous goal to “work out more,” try saying “I will get my 10,000 steps daily,” or “I will write one chapter of my novel each month” or “I will hike Kings Peak this summer.” Whatever it is, as long as it’s specific, will give you something to aim for. After all, you’ll never hit the bullseye, if your target is the dartboard. 

Secondly, goals must be Measurable. If there’s no way to quantify your goal, then there’s really no way to tell if any progress has been made. Setting a measurable goal ensures the ability to look back, and buoy oneself up with the work that is already done.

For example, with the popular New Year's resolution to work out more, you could try to measure how many reps you’re able to do, or how much weight you can lift, or even how often. If it’s measurable, you know how, and where to improve. 

The third requirement for a smart goal is that it must be Attainable. So many people, when setting a resolution, aim big. While being ambitious isn’t a bad thing, the goal must be well within reach to be able to be accomplished.

If you haven’t started working out, and your resolution is to go to the gym every day, the burnout will be quick, and likely permanent. Instead, an attainable goal could be to go to the gym once a week, or even once a month if it’s something you haven’t done before.

The fourth letter in the smart goal acronym? Realistic. Going hand-in-hand with attainable, any goal that is going to be accomplished must be within the realm of reality. While going to the moon sounds like a fascinating goal, it may not be a realistic New Year’s resolution.

Realistic goals fall in line with specific, measurable, and attainable goals, in making sure that it’s a goal you can achieve. You can’t set a goal to make a perfect soufflé in the next month if you’ve never successfully made a muffin. However, timing can be a big deciding factor in the realism of a goal.

This is why the next step is making sure the goal is Time Bound. Any goal with a deadline is much more likely to be accomplished than one without. This doesn’t mean there needs to be a day, or week in the near future where the goal needs to be finished, but rather, a specific time where, no matter what, the goal will be done. 

Combining each of these letters will make for a great foundation to achieve many goals, but, in the event that it doesn’t work out, don’t panic. If a smart goal fails, it’s time to get smart-er. Adding those last two letters to the end of your smart goal can really make a difference.

If at first, the smart goal doesn’t succeed, it then becomes time to Evaluate and Reset the goal. Take a look at each aspect: was it specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound? If so, take a step back and evaluate. What was it that made that resolution just out of reach? How can it be improved, and how can it be more in line with the smart acronym?

Then, reset the goal. Gold medal Olympic athletes don’t start out ready to take home the most prestigious athletic award in the world. There’s time, training, setting of benchmarks and goals, and resetting. Persistence and consistency are the key in any sort of self-improvement endeavor, and a smart goal will help even the most apathetic or stubborn to succeed.