The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

Patching Cracks


January 10, 2018

With the new year upon us, it’s time to decide if setting goals for the new year is a worthwhile effort. Many people I know see the new calendar year as an opportunity to start over or remake themselves or an area of their life that they’re dissatisfied with, but then struggle to accomplish total life change. This shouldn’t be surprising. Change is hard, especially major change. Last year, I set a handful of New Year’s resolutions, and I managed to accomplish a few of my goals. More importantly, I learned a few things about goal setting that will help me be more successful in the coming year. This is the third year that I have seriously attempted resolutions and written about my experiences. This year, I began seriously applying SMART standards to my goals. SMART is an acronym meaning: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. I have slowly started using these standards, but have only just realized the value of intentionally using them when selecting goals.

Specific goals are exactly that: specific. My first year of doing resolutions, I set the goal of losing weight. The problem is that “losing weight” is not really a specific target. This year, I set the goal of losing 30 pounds, and I only lost 15. I feel pretty good about it, despite not getting to my target. However, though that is a specific target, it’s not quite specific enough. I also learned that I had to set additional goals to make it work. I set a goal of going to the gym 6 days every week. I also set goals for my diet. Those specific goals added up to my weight loss.

Setting measurable goals means picking targets that you can say you achieved or you didn’t. I picked a number of books I wanted to read this year, rather than saying I want to “read more”. This made my goal measurable. I knew when I was making progress and if I was making enough to reach my objective.

With my measurable goals, it was also important to make them achievable. This sounds odd, but setting goals that are beyond my reach is discouraging. To this end, I had to learn to break my targets down into smaller pieces. My goal of reading 120 books this year was daunting, until I said I’d read about 10 books a month or an hour a day. That was something I could actually do. It was achievable and even though it was the same as saying “read 120 books” it looked easier.

Relevant goals mean something to me. This sounds odd, but I just won’t do something new if I don’t care that much whether or not it gets done. I have a few things I’d like to do every year, but I don’t want to do them badly enough to actually do them. Even reading, which I enjoy, became impossible when I tried to read books that I just didn’t care enough about to actually put the time into. Weight loss often falls into this category. The immediate benefits of weight loss aren’t obvious. It takes a long time to get to the point where the benefits of weight loss are obvious. This means I had to come up with ways to make it worth my while to do, beyond the obvious longer term benefits. I built rewards into my plan and kept myself accountable using friends who exercised with me. This made the whole thing more personal to me.

Finally, setting goals that are time-bound is a huge deal. This means you have to accomplish your goal by a certain date. Beyond that, it’s important to make that time goal both long and short term in nature. I wanted to write a book this year. That’s a huge undertaking with many steps. That was my large goal. In order to accomplish it, I set a daily goal of writing a certain number of words or editing a certain number of pages. Smaller goals made the larger goal attainable.

I learned a few other tricks that have helped and will likely write about them in the coming weeks. However, regardless of what tricks I’ve used, setting proper goals has been the most important part of making changes to myself and my habits.


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