Ditch the New Year Resolution, Go for the Goal

According to a recent study by the University of Scranton, 45% of us make New Years resolutions. That sounds about right.

Here’s the kicker: based on the research, only 8% of us are likely to actually follow through and achieve those resolutions.


So what’s the difference between making a resolution versus creating a vision and setting corresponding goals?

Resolutions are usually more general and don’t tend to have feelings or emotions tied to them. They are made once a year on New Years Day, they are rarely done in writing, and then, for the most part, they are completely forgotten until the following year. These are examples of typical resolutions: “I want to lose some weight.” “I want to get healthier.” “I want to quit smoking.” “I want to get a promotion.” “I wan’t to start saving more money.” It’s no wonder 92% of us don’t stick to resolutions.

Goals, on the other hand, are written down, and they are very specific and clear. They are tied to the overall vision of who you want to be. They are reviewed and measured regularly. You’re emotionally vested in your goals, and therefore, you’ll have a much higher success rate in achieving them.

What are SMART Goals?

The acronym SMART stands for the following:

  • Specific. Be very clear. Instead of saying “I want to get healthier,” write down exactly the kind of health you want and why you want it. How fast do you want to run a 5k? What do you want your blood pressure to be? What is your exact target body weight? Go through this process for each of your goals.
  • Measurable. Make your goal something that is measurable, then track and review your progress on a frequent basis (at least once a week).
  • Attainable. Your goal has to be something you believe you can attain.
  • Realistic. Your goal must be something you believe is realistic, but don’t use this as an excuse to not stretch yourself.
  • Timely. Set target dates for when you’ll achieve each goal. WARNING: If you miss your date, don’t give up on the goal. Retool, refocus, and go through the process again.

You can use this process for your professional and personal goals. Here is a list of example categories to think about when setting goals:

  • Family
  • Finances
  • Relationships
  • Spirituality
  • Health
  • Personal Development
  • Professional

Good luck!

Source for statistics: University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology

New Years Resolution Statistics

David G. Willey is Vice President for MasterCard Worldwide

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