One of the best ways you can make your resolutions more than a brief flirtation with real change is to follow the old “SMART” acronym for setting goals. It’s been around for decades so you’ve probably encountered it at school, work or some other setting, possibly under duress, but it provides a great structure for thinking about and then realizing your goals.
To review, SMART stands for:
You can’t be vague about what you want to do, like lose an unspecified amount of weight, run more or cut back on your phone use. Write out your goals and attach numbers to them. This is easiest to do with health, nutritional or fitness-based goals like losing 20 pounds or running an 8-minute mile, but it can also be applied to self-care goals too; you can set benchmarks for becoming more mindful every day.
This works hand-in-glove with the specificity of your resolution. If you’re going for that 8-minute mile, you’re either hitting it or you’re not, and you’re able to measure your progress if, for example, you’re already doing a mile in 9 minutes and training to shave a minute off your average. If your resolution is to be more mindful you can come up with a specific action, such as staying in the moment every time you open a door and then notice how often you’re remembering to do that.
This one’s a little tricky, walking the fine line between positive thinking and overconfidence. If you weigh 135 pounds and want to get down to 115, losing that percent of your body volume is going to be more difficult than starting out at 165 and getting down to 145. Plus depending on your height, it may not be that healthy a goal in the first place. If it takes all you’ve got to run a mile in 14 minutes, then shaving it down to 12 minutes would be more attainable.
Make a resolution that has a deeper meaning for you or would improve your life. If you want to lose weight, choose an amount that would help you reach broader health goals such as reducing your risk of developing chronic disease or reducing joint pain. Resolve to become more mindful to allow yourself to be more present with those you love or to combat intrusive, stressful thoughts.
Set a realistic, but not too generous, time frame for resolving your resolution. You don’t have to take a year to accomplish it because it’s a New Year’s resolution, and in most cases that would be too long unless you’re really good at being consistent and not pushing the work off to later in the year. Losing 20 pounds at a sustainable rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week should take between 2 ½ to four months.