How to Make SMART Resolutions—and 8 Motivation-Boosting Websites
So it’s “resolution time,” huh? The time to resolve to do the things we resolved to do last year, such as get in shape, save money, climb a mountain, strengthen relationships, quit smoking, stress less or sleep more. Statistics are stacked against success—by January 31st, most gyms are as empty as the Kardashian brain pool. Why? Most people make too-general resolutions that require an immediate, radical shift in behaviour; few take the time to define goals and to create step-by-step plans to meet these goals. For example, resolving to lose weight is noble, but without a plan, it’s just a wish. Goal-setting gurus, such as Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy and Chalene Johnson, advise making SMART goals, meaning specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding and time-sensitive goals. Experts also recommend writing goals down; studies show putting goals on paper hugely increases the likelihood of achieving them.
My health goal for 2012 is to become more flexible. My hip flexors, which have always been tight, have become increasingly so, and this tightness is turning into pain and affecting my daily life and athletic pursuits (how ironic is it I am finding it difficult to do yoga because of tight hips!). Though I’m reasonably fit and strong, I now feel how important it is to be flexible. I always think of a former client who often said, “First you get stiff, then you get old.” So true. However, “become more flexible” isn’t a SMART goal, so I’ve made it SMART by considering the following principles. I encourage you to make SMART goals, too. Here’s to meeting our goals in 2012!
MEG’S SMART GOAL: DO THE SPLITS BY JULY 1st
S = Specific
Just like the goal of “losing weight,” my goal of “increasing flexibility” is too vague. So I’ve made my goal specific: do the splits (on one leg at least!). The “S” in SMART can also stand for “small”: as I work toward my goal, I’ve given myself mini goals of increasing my hamstring flexibility each week, which will enable me to hit my target goal. For those looking to shed pounds, mini goals could include losing a pound a week or 2% body fat a month; for those wanting to run a marathon, mini goals could include running 10 minutes longer twice weekly; for those seeking 8 hours of sleep a night, it could be to go to bed 15 minutes earlier. Small changes add up, and accomplishing mini goals boosts motivation to hit target goals.
M = Measurable
Can I assess my progress in some way? Yes—by not being the least flexible person in yoga class! And, more importantly, by being able to stretch further (without wincing!) and by having less hip and hamstring stiffness. It’s also important to identify your starting point before creating an action plan. For example, just like knowing your current financial situation is critical to improving it, those wanting to lose weight should measure their body weight, fat and inches at the outset. This will help you gauge your progress, and tracking your progress will help you stay on course.
A = Achievable
Is my goal attainable? I think so, considering I was “this close” to doing the splits last year, when I was doing hot yoga a few times a week. To reach my goal, I’ve committed to doing a yoga class, either at a studio or at home, four times a week and to stretching/foam rolling for 10 minutes daily. Ask yourself whether your goal is not only possible, but probable. That is, do you have the time, resources, and above all, the desire and determination to commit to your goal? If not, consider setting a smaller goal or revising your goal. Maybe your goal isn’t as important to you as you thought. I mean, just because others have resolved to run a marathon doesn’t mean you should, especially if you have bad knees or (c’mon, admit it) hate running!
R = Rewarding
Will reaching my goal positively affect my life? Yes. I’ll have less pain and stiffness, and increasing my flexibility will safeguard against injuries. It’ll also allow me to do my favourite activities (and try new ones) with more ease. To determine whether your goal is rewarding, ask yourself how achieving it will benefit you. As children we learn to expect rewards for our efforts, and this “eye on the prize” mentality doesn’t disappear in adulthood! Without a reward, it’s tough to put in the work and discipline necessary to achieve challenging goals, gratifying as the end result may be.
T = Time-Sensitive
Ask any editor: most of us work best (that is, we quit procrastinating and get s*it done) with a deadline, so be sure to attach timelines to your mini-goals and target goal. Just make sure they’re realistic, since failing to meet impractical deadlines is a sure set-up for abandoning your goals altogether. For example, giving yourself a month to lose 20 pounds is not realistic (nor healthy), but losing a pound a week is. Again, I’ve set a goal of doing the splits by July 1st, with mini goals of improving my hamstring flexibility each week.
Note: As we often hold ourselves accountable to others more than to ourselves, consider telling people (lots of people!) about your goal. And know it’s okay to change or refine your goals at any time. Manage your expectations and—pardon the pun—be flexible!
Need more motivation? Check out these websites for ideas. Best of all, they’re free!
- Yoga Download: No time (or money) for yoga? No problem. YD has amazing classes, and most of the 20-minute sessions are free! My favourite 20-minute classes include Detox Yoga #1 and Core Yoga #1. I’ve also heard rave reviews of My Yoga Online.
- Spark People: This site is more of an online weight loss community; register to access tracking tools and calorie counters, support groups, recipes and more.
- All Recipes: The mother of recipe databases, this site features thousands of reader-tested recipes and tutorials. Be sure to scan readers’ reviews for tips and modifications.
- 8Tracks: Music is a powerful motivator, and this site features tons of awesome playlists.
- Oxygen Magazine: The magazine is pricy, but the website also features great workouts, recipes and articles.
- Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer: Fitness competitor Jamie Eason has designed a comprehensive, 12-week training program. It’s like having a personal trainer! (Read a review of the program here.)
- Fitness Magazine: This site features easy, healthy recipes and exercise slideshows and videos. I recently bookmarked Brooke Burke’s and Alison Sweeney’s workouts.
- Meditations for Women & Meditations for Weight Loss: Sign up to receive inspirational quotations and articles. (These apply to men, too!)