Friday, December 30, 2011

You Wanna Do WHAT in 2012???

Oh no, not another how-to-keep-your-new-year’s-resolution article. No (phew). This article will not dispense advice about how to keep your resolutions.

Because before you can figure out how to keep your resolutions, it’s even more important to determine how to make them in the first place.

According to a Marist poll (Time Magazine, 2010), only 65% of people who make a resolution keep it for at least part of the year and 35% never even get off the ground. This is not due solely to laziness or lack of motivation. It could also be the case because most people do not create the right resolutions for them in the first place, which herein will be referred to as “goals.”

We have learned the importance of setting ourselves up for success with SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Oriented, Time-Bound) goals, and that’s important but even more important is the sentiment behind them.

Before committing to a goal, ask yourself the following, and remember these are about you so there is no right answer.

Is this goal authentic to who I am? Are you pursuing the goal because you really desire the outcome or because you feel outside pressure? Maybe you want to get along better with your co-workers, always a noble cause. Ask yourself how this matches up to your core values. Are you seeking to create more harmony in the workplace, or to complete work faster through teaming? Or are you looking to advance your own career to earn a promotion or to avoid negative consequence after receiving feedback from others that you need to improve your interpersonal skills? How does this goal resonate with who you are? What does “getting along better” mean to you? Is this really what you need to accomplish or would you be better served to work on seeing others’ perspectives both inside and outside the office? Again, none of these are wrong as long as they resonate with your true self. Or maybe you want to spend more time with your children. Is the reason that you have been spending too much time doing something of lesser priority or that it isn’t about time at all but more about becoming more engaged in their lives?

What do I actually want? For example, suppose you’re debating with your significant other about what to do for the weekend. You want to got to the beach and relax with a good book and a margarita or two. S/he wants to go sightseeing. When you you look at the desired result instead of the activity, you see that you seek relaxation while s/he wants to experience a new adventure. Understanding this, you could select activities that accomplish both of your desires.

The Marist poll revealed that the #1 New Year’s goal is weight loss. And yet so many people fail at this goal year after year, or they go gangbusters at the gym, lose the weight, only to regain thereafter. Perhaps the weight loss itself shouldn't be their primary focus, but rather what they think achieving it will do--make them healthier; increase energy levels; improve mood, concentration, sexual performance, effectiveness at work, etc; make their jeans fit better, etc. If you start with the desired result, you can set your goal and a number of measurable objectives to accomplish that goal. 3x weekly cardio workouts, for example, is just one tactic. If you want your jeans to fit better, you may choose to track your progress by photographing yourself in those jeans monthly and adjusting your tactics as needed. But know what you really want to happen as a result of meeting your goal. You may decide you need to re-state the goal to align to your true desire.

What’s in it for me? As is the case when you contemplate any big purchase, new job, etc, you need to understand how you will benefit from achieving the goal. If your goal is to fit into a dress for your sister’s wedding, what will be your net gain? The feeling of confidence at the wedding? Conformity with others who will be in the photos? The start to a healthier you? Would your net benefit be greater if you maintain that size permanently? Could you get an even bigger bang-for-the-buck by combining this goal with another one? For example, if you also seek more social interaction, you could enroll in group fitness classes to accomplish both fitting into the dress size and meeting new people. Again, there are no wrong answers. Just be very clear on how you want to benefit and then ask yourself if the goal you’ve outlined will help you achieve this.

And never be afraid to iterate. Your goals and resolutions are for you so if your desires and feelings change, go with it. And be sure to write everything down, track your progress, and celebrate your success. Now that’s SMART.

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