It’s that time of year again when many of us will be making resolutions for the New Year.
Whether it’s due to overindulgence over the holiday period or a desire to achieve more in a specific area of life, many people choose the 1st of January as the ideal time to tell the world how they’re going to make changes to improve their life.
And, as we know, many people fail.
Today’s posts over at Lifehacker reminded me of the importance of two key factors when setting goals: specificity and measurability. When setting a goal it’s not helpful to make a resolution like “this year I’m going to lose weight”.
Instead? Try framing in terms that specify what needs to be lost (unfortunately, this will probably require you getting on a weighing scales!) and specifically how you’re going to go about doing that. This facilitates the measurability bit.
If you know where you stand and where you want to get to, you can assess your progress along the way. And the way you get there – the methods – can be reviewed for success as you make your way.
The example resolution to lose weight could be elaborated as follows: “This year, I’m going to lose 10 kilos. I’ll achieve this by 1st June, before I go on my summer holidays. I’ll achieve this by visiting the gym three times a week and by cutting out take-away food completely from my diet”.
The above example is specific enough to be adhered to, can be measured and also contains another helpful ingredient: a motivating component. Here, the person resolving to lose weight (it’s not me, honest!) has a holiday booked and they know they’ll feel better about themselves on the beach if they’re 10 kilos lighter.
Put another way, a resolution should be expressed in terms that someone else could pick it up and follow it to success. Think of it in terms of a set of detailed instructions for yourself, rather than a vague aspiration.
It can also be useful to keep a record of your goal attainment. As above, recording when you did and didn’t go to the gym and recording this in a notebook or spreadsheet gives you a visual representation of your behaviour.
More high-tech solutions are presently littering the online sales, such as the Fitbit pedometer and scale. These gizmos track your physical activity and weight and automatically generate a handy online record of your progress towards any number of goals.
Whether hi-tech or old-school, evidence of your progress can be extremely motivating, so don’t leave it up to your (fallible) memory. If you’re a completist, you might find Jerry Seinfeld’s habit-forming technique interesting: just don’t break the chain!
But you’ll also need to revisit the resolution(s) and your records regularly to keep up this motivation and interest. So keep it written down where you’re more likely to see it.
As for me, as usual, I’ll have a selection of small resolutions. One of which is to write for this blog more regularly – something we’ll all be able to assess as the weeks progress. Wish me luck!