2018 is almost upon us. The New Year will soon make its big entrance and resolutions will be made once again. Making goals for the New Year is something that everyone appears to enjoy doing without ever actually following through. It seems that resolutions, no matter what they are, never make it past March. Why is it that people have such a hard time keeping New Year’s resolutions? Blame bad habits.

According to John Norcross and his colleagues, who published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, approximately 50 percent of the population make resolutions every New Year. Among the top resolutions are weight loss, exercise, to quit smoking, better money management and debt reduction. I’m sure this doesn’t come as a surprise to most people. You might have even previously made these goals. Keeping them is the challenge.

Timothy Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” which is an effort to reinvent oneself. Pychyle argues that people are not ready to change their habits at the start of a new year, and as a result, the rate of failed resolutions is high.

Making New Year’s resolutions involves “rewiring the brain,” so to speak. One must force themselves to think and act differently. Since this involves breaking habits and forcing the brain to think differently, many individuals tend to grow tired of their new goals and lose the motivation to continue. Consequently, they fall back into their normal routine.

Peter Bregman, a writer for the Harvard Business Review Blog Network, believes that “When we set goals, we’re taught to make them specific and measurable and time-bound. But it turns out that those characteristics are precisely the reasons goals can backfire. A specific, measurable, time-bound goal drives behavior that’s narrowly focused and often leads to either cheating or myopia. Yes, we often reach the goal, but at what cost?”

Bregman continues saying that maybe we should consider creating an area of focus rather a single goal. He says, “An area of focus taps into your intrinsic motivation, offers no stimulus or incentive to cheat or take unnecessary risk, leaves every positive possibility and opportunity open, and encourages collaboration while reducing corrosive competition. All this while moving forward on the things you and your organization value most.”

Setting goals this next year is a good thing to do. However, with all this in mind, here are some helpful tips to help you go about making good and attainable goals or commonly known as “S.M.A.R.T.” goals.

  1. (S)pecific: To help with this, your goal should answer the typical who, what, where, when, why and how questions. Identify what you will do, when you will do it and exactly how you will accomplish your resolution.
  2. (M)easurable: To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as, “How much,” “How many,” and “How will I know when it is accomplished?” If you don’t follow through with this you will never have a set accomplishment to reach.
  3. (A)chievable: For a goal to be accomplished it must be within reach. Not to say it should be an easy goal, but rather a challenging one that can be accomplished. So, if your goal is to exercise seven days a week for two hours a day and you haven’t exercised in over a year, that’s probably a goal that will be difficult to reach right off the bat. Make goals you feel you can attain.
  4. (R)elevant: Your goals should be something you are both willing and able to accomplish. Easy goals provide little motivation and are often forgotten about. Create goals you know you can accomplish with the proper motivation, so you can feel proud when you reach it.
  5. (T)imely: Your goal should have a time frame. Typically New Year’s resolutions have a year time limit. To stay on track, try using smaller time frames to check yourself over the course of the year. Monthly checkpoints for your goal can be very helpful, especially if it involves money, exercise or stopping a bad habit.

New Year’s resolutions can be some of the best ways to improve your life as long as you stay motivated. Being diligent with set goals and accomplishing them are some of the best feelings. So, grab your pencil and paper because 2018 is almost here. It’s time to start thinking about how to change your life for the better next year.

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