Checking in on New Year’s Resolutions

Did you make a New Year’s resolution? Are you sticking to it? Completing New Year’s Resolutions is something that most people are not very good at. According to data published by the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% of Americans who make a resolution feel like they successfully achieved their New Year’s Resolutions. Given the low success rate, perhaps the 42% who claim to never make a New Year’s Resolution are on to something? Or are they? People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who do not explicitly make resolutions.

Why do most New Year’s Resolutions fail? A typical New Year’s Resolution reads something along the lines of this statement: “I want to be healthier in 2018.” This resolution is missing a few key components that make up a SMART goal – specificity, measurability, attainability, relevance, and timeliness.

SMART goals

Thinking about what the 9% of people who succeed at their New Year’s Resolution do differently, I would venture to guess that these people put some parameters in place that make their resolution resemble a SMART goal. The nice thing about New Year’s Resolutions is that they are timely by nature! Typically, the resolution is to be carried out over the next year, so we can think of a New Year’s Resolution as a goal we hope to achieve within the year. Going back to the example of “I want to be healthier in 2018,” we see that the other four components that make up a SMART goal are missing.

  1. Clearly indicate what we actually want to accomplish (Specific)
  2. Make sure we can track progress, which helps us stay on track and accountable (Measurable)
  3. Be within our reach and realistic (Attainable)
  4. Worthy of our time and effort (Relevant)

If we think about a New Year’s Resolution as a goal, and follow the process outlined above to turn it into a SMART goal, we will likely formulate a resolution that we can accomplish and be successful in carrying out. But even if you are not the New Year’s Resolution type of person, hopefully you came back from the holidays feeling energized and ready to go in 2018. As many of us just pushed pause on our day-to-day work to receive a professional recharge at the NASPA Strategies conference in Portland, Oregon, I want to remind you that this is a great opportunity to think about SMART goals. We just had the opportunity to soak in a lot of new learnings and hopefully came away with a treasure trove of ideas to implement back on our campuses.

With so many new ideas coming out of conferences, but often limited institutional resources and competing priorities, it is important to focus in on what matters in the upcoming year. Dedicate your time and energy to working towards your goal and try not to be distracted by all of the other things on your daily to-do list. Small steps add up to big strides, so whatever your goal for the New Year, creating milestones that align with specific measures of success can help to keep motivation high and the momentum moving in the proper direction.