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Don't Make Resolutions, Set SMART Goals in 2021!

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.
-Abraham Lincoln

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Now that the holidays are over, it's time to take a breath. I also feel it is necessary to talk about the annual bane of self-improvers everywhere, from now until about March each year: New Years' Resolutions. I suppose it may sound odd as a therapist, but I have several reasons why I am against them. Usually they don't last (You know it, I know it and everyone else knows it. We usually give up in a month or two). Some people don't really care about the resolution and it's forgotten about as soon as it's made. We really have no intention of maintaining it. There is often not a lot of follow-through, which is what is needed to sustain long-term behavior change. It's a tradition we go through that has lost its meaning for a lot of people, yet we keep doing it. Every year. And find ourselves in the same proverbial place, year after year ("Two Lost Souls Swimming in a Fish Bowl, Year after Year"-Pink Floyd fans out there?).

You may be thinking to yourself about the resolutions you've made this year or over the last 5 or 10 years that have not stuck. Are you wondering if there a better way?

YES! There absolutely is a better way. Today I want to talk to you about SMART goals.

Here's how it works: Each letter stands for something you need your goal to be. For example S=Specific. Your goal should be very very specific. Don't say something like "be healthier." Perhaps say, something like "Eat one serving of vegetables a day." Doing it this way makes it much easier to determine if you actually achieved it or not. Also perhaps include why this goal is important to you. Why do you want to do it? How do you want to do it? "Eat one serving of vegetables per day at dinner time because I know it is better for my body than a candy bar."

Next is M=Measurable. This is where numbers are important. You will need some type of number to measure your progress. If our goal is to eat "more" vegetables, that's hardly useful unless you set up some parameters. How many vegetables? What kind? How often? For how many days or weeks? For this example, I will say "Eat one serving of vegetables each day with dinner." This gives me how much, how often. I could be more specific and say something about carb count or fat count to determine which vegetables or sauces to include, but some may argue that's a little picky. J

Now we want it to be A=Achievable. This is extremely important. This will make or break a goal. It may sound paradoxical, but don't be as ambitious as you think you should be. Take it back a couple notches. The reason is this: If I set my goal to high, I will give up and perhaps feel bad about myself if I fail. Make this goal achievable, perhaps too achievable. Make it a little on the easy side. This will increase your motivation and make you stick with it because you feel good about your progress, which creates momentum.

How about R? R can be different things depending on what you are reading. I've seen R as Results-Focused, Relevant, Realistic and several other things. For this post, I'm going to use Result-focused. Results-Focused means you know exactly what you are trying to do and you track it somehow. I like using a bullet journal or similar way to track progress. You can track daily, weekly or monthly as you find helpful. You can make your tracker simple or as elaborate as you want. It's your goal and your method of tracking. This keeps your goal in the forefront of your mind and keeps you focused. Keep your tracker somewhere you can see it often. I found a simple one online and put it on the fridge.

Lastly, we have T=Time Bound. This creates a deadline for your goal. If I'm eating one serving of vegetables with my dinner, how long am I keeping this goal? I'm going to say for a week? Maybe a month? Again, I like to keep my goals short because it helps with focus. After the determined time is over, I review and see how I did. Then I revise my goal as necessary to make it better for next week. I may set a second goal of checking my overall progress each month, three months or 6 months. Again, this helps with longer-term focus and staying on track for the longer haul.

So, my final SMART goal would look like this: "I will eat one serving of vegetables per day with dinner for the next week because it is good for my physical and mental health."

Other pointers for keeping a SMART goal, share your goal with others. Let them know about it which will keep you honest. Have an accountability buddy you check in with routinely. This helps keep you on track because you are reporting out regularly. I've seen some people join a Facebook group for their goal behavior and post their progress publicly as a tool to maintain their self-discipline and accountability. Very important is you practice self-compassion if you have a rough time and continue to persist with your goal. Giving up will certainly not lead to the desired outcome, so only through persistence, self-discipline and self-compassion (when we mess up) can meaningful change happen. Figure out what keeps you going. I make a yearly tradition of checking my goals from last year on New Year's Eve to see how I did, but there is no wrong way to do it as long as you do it! Focus on how great you will feel once you accomplish that goal you've had for so long!

I have a great worksheet I use every year to help me be a little more intentional about my goal setting. I also have a second worksheet I use for setting SMART goals for myself and my clients. Email me if you'd like a copy and I will send it to you!

Do you need some professional support to achieve solid self-improvement? Call me at 330-451-6306 for your free 15 minute phone consultation. You may also send me a confidential email by going to the following webpage: and entering in your message.

You can also visit my website (if that's not where you are reading this) at for more information about me and the services I offer.

If you are in crisis, please contact the Coleman Crisis Center in Canton, Ohio at 330-452-6000 for immediate help or the national crisis line at 1-800-275-TALK (8255).

You can also text the Ohio Crisis Line by sending "4 hope" to 741-741 or go to the nearest emergency department for immediate assistance.

Take care of yourself and make some great SMART goals in 2021!



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