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Be S.M.A.R.T This Year

Cartoon of man meditatingDid you make any resolutions for 2018 — any promises to yourself to become a better person? A recent poll by Marist College in New York revealed 12 per cent of respondents resolve to do just that. An equal number want to lose weight, which may be their version of being a better person. Or perhaps meditation is the way to bliss. Today’s illustration of a young man in business attire sitting in lotus position shows commitment and a certain amount of flexibility.

If you didn’t make any resolutions, you’re not alone. According to the Marist College poll, 44 percent of Americans have no plans to make any resolutions. The remaining 56 percent may not set achievable goals.

Goals are tricky.

The first thing to remember is that a goal can be made any time, any day, and if the goal turns out to be ineffective, it’s okay to revise and begin again. Even more important, a goal or resolution needs to be positive, and doable.

320px-Payne-whitney-exercise2Many people vow to exercise more, which is why gym memberships spike in January. By March, attendance is down to it’s usual numbers, and the gym has your money.

Woman on stand-up paddle boardThere are other ways to exercise. For example, stand up paddling is a rigorous workout by anyone’s standards. Do it two or three times a week, for the joy of it.

Many people make resolutions that require a total lifestyle change. Over time, this can be a positive process. But committing to everything at once dooms us to failure. Researchers say that the reasons resolutions fail is because we focus on things that, for various reasons, we haven’t been able to do before. “I resolve to exercise.” Okay, what’s stopping you?

Often the resolution gives us instant gratifications that we’re doing the right thing, but when we go to the gym, we don’t enjoy it. Muscle tone doesn’t appear after two weeks, and the gang wants to go for a beer after work. Or you need to stop by the store. Before you know it, automatic responses sabotage the resolution to exercise. But wait, maybe the guy meditating has the right idea. We need to focus on a specific task. Put it in the calendar. “I’m not just going to exercise. I’m going to go to the gym Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and stand-up paddle on Saturday.” May as well be ambitious. As you keep your appointments with yourself, they become a habit. And six months later, you’ll have a habit and toned muscles.

Resolutions are about setting goals.

Let’s use switching to a Mediterranean Diet as an example of goal-setting.

Successful Goal Setting requires five attributes. The goal must be:
1. Specific — I will eat better by following a Mediterranean Diet.
2. Measurable — I will measure how well I’m doing by keeping a food diary.
3. Achievable — I will purchase fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis, and learn how to prepare them.
4. Realistic — We have local Farmers’ Markets and a good health food store that sells local produce.
5. Timely — I start my new Mediterranean Diet today.

S.M.A.R.T Goals

If you want to achieve your goal, be S.M.A.R.T. about it.

And do it because it’s what you want to do, not what you should do.

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ILLUSTRATIONS:

Cartoon of meditating man by Vectortoons. Creative Commons Attribution.

The Acrian C. “Ace” Israel Fitness Center at Yale University. Public Domain.

Woman Stand up Paddle surfing by Bill Ebbesen. Creative Commons Attribution.

Mediterranean Diet Foods by g.steph.rocket. Creative Commons Attribution.

S.M.A.R.T. illustration by Author.

Goal Setting Basics.

Georgene Huang. “4 Ways to Make Your Career Resolutions Stick in 2018.” Forbes. Jan 6, 2018.

Melissa Matthews. “New Year’s Resolutions 2018.” Newsweek. Dec. 28, 2017.

Claire Maldarelli. “Why Your Brain makes New Year’s Resolutions Impossible to Keep.” Popular Science. Dec 16, 2016.

Katie Uniacke. “8 Things to Remember Before Setting 2018 New Year’s Resolutions.” A Conscious Rethink. Dec 6, 2017.

Author Sandra Wagner Wright

Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.

Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.

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