Thursday, January 2, 2014

Resolutions that Stick: The SMARTIES Principle


As the New Year dawns, it is tradition to set goals to better yourself.  The perennial question, however, is: How do I make New Years’ Resolutions that actually last past January 2nd?

There are two basic reasons New Years Resolutions flop.  The first arises from setting too many goals.  The second occurs from a failure to set SMART Goals.  SMART, in this context, is an acronym.  It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.  The SMART model is an excellent method for goal setting, but there is more, and that is why I encourage self-action leaders to include four additional guidelines to their goal setting.  These additional recommendations turn SMART goals into SMARTIES Goals, as follows:

Attainable and Accountable
In competition primarily with yourself

With one exception—Accountability—SMARTIES Goals are the same as SMART Goals up through the “T.”  I will, therefore, focus on the four additions: Accountability, In Competition Primarily With Yourself, Engaging, and Sane.

First: Find an Accountability Partner.  Tell someone else about your SMARTIES goal.  If you are the only person who knows about your goal, it is easy to give up when the going gets tough.  An accountability partner provides encouragement and positive peer pressure to stick with goal(s) you set.

When I first started running marathons, my older brother was my accountability partner.  Even though he lived across the country, our e-mails back and forth and my knowledge that he knew about my goal provided encouragement and motivation to stick with my goal during those grueling 20-plus mile training runs.

Second: Set goals focused primarily on self-competition.  While competition with others can be highly motivating for some, it can be a deflating experience for others.  Furthermore, no matter who you are, there will always be someone bigger, taller, faster, smarter, wealthier, luckier, younger/older, more talented, and the list goes on.  Because of this, goals that compete with others often end in perceived failure—even if you have bettered yourself in the process! 

Instead of wasting time and energy in comparisons, why not reinvest it in self-betterment and reaching your own potential?  Doing so will not only afford you with self-improvement, but will naturally make you more competitive with others as well—if that is your goal.  As a competitive runner, some of the best races I ever ran I did not win, but I did run a personal best time.  Since learning this lesson, my place in the final standings of a race has become secondary to my personal time and effort, and my enjoyment of the entire goal-setting process has increased.    

Third, set goals that engage your interest.  Goals that don’t excite are painful to pursue and rarely accomplished.  I often set goals related to distance running because physical wellness and racing are both exciting to me.   

Fourth, set sane goals.  This last guideline is designed for goals you are re-setting after falling short on previous attempts.  A popular definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results.  Setting sane goals means that if at first you don’t succeed, then don’t just try again.  First, reevaluate your methods and see where you need to make changes before trying again.  Then, make the necessary adjustments as part of your next attempt.

In my first attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2011, I missed my qualifying time by 70 minutes.  The following year, I made some important training adjustments after talking to a runner who had already qualified.  As a result, I ran 45 minutes faster in 2012!  I took 2013 off from marathon running.  This year, I am making further adjustments to my training regimen to get even closer to my ultimate goal of running in Boston, hopefully next year.     

I challenge you to set a SMARTIES goal for yourself in 2014.  Next week, I will share my own SMARTIES goal thereby making you, my reader, my Accountability Partner!  

Original source of SMART Goals: Doran, G. T. (1981). There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives. Management Review,                       70(11), 35-36.

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