As we move in to 2015, there is no shortage of discussion about resolutions and goals. Many of us resolve to finally change the things in life we have become frustrated with, despite knowing that the vast majority of goals set around the New Year do not lead to long-term change. It’s not surprising these goals don’t stick, given that there is nothing magical about the passage of December 31st. In fact, long-term change is much more than a simple decision, it’s a lengthy process of identifying meaningful reasons, increasing awareness around behaviors, and carefully planning support and benchmarks.
So how do you improve your chances?
One common method of identifying goals that are likely to stick is applying the acronym “S.M.A.R.T.” to your goals. SMART goals include the characteristics that are most likely to fit with a long-term plan of change. As you think about your goals, how are ways that they can adhere to these criteria?
Specific – Goals should be defined in clear, specific terms. “I will spend 30 minutes each week on X”, rather than “I will be better about X” is a more effective way to describe your goal.
Measurable – Goals should be identified in ways that you can assess easily, such as: “I will track my runs with a fitness tracker, to set goals as I improve”.
Attainable – Considering your current obligations, can you realistically achieve the change you’ve defined? Pick a starting place that you know you can keep up with.
Realistic – Often times you have attempted change previously. Take your experience into account, and set something you can realistically accomplish.
Timely – Set your timeline in the foreseeable future. If goals are too lengthy, the likelihood of sticking with them reduces. If it’s a long-term goal, then set some more immediate steps along the way that you can achieve and reward yourself for.
Behavior change is also a process that benefits greatly from social facilitation and structure. Find a friend to join you in the process, and schedule time together to work on the goal. You are far more likely to stay with your goals with good support and an identified game plan.
If support is difficult to include, speaking with a mental health professional can help. Counselors are specifically trained in techniques to help people identify, refine and clarify goals. They can provide a weekly check-in to help keep you on track, and work on ways to enhance your motivation. If the staff at the Juniper Center can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to call and speak with a counselor today!