As we think about things we want to accomplish in 2021, I suspect we share
a common goal: getting a Covid vaccination. But, as this time of year, we
may decide want to change in other ways. New Year’s resolutions are a way
to express that desire. Maybe your resolution for 2021 is that you’ll get in
shape or you’ll landscape your backyard or you’ll learn Spanish.
How you can you make that happen? Your goal may not be new—probably
you’ve been thinking about it and kind of trying but it hasn’t happened yet.
My diagnosis: your objective lacked clarity and you didn’t have a plan.
Let’s take “getting in shape” as an example. It’s an admirable goal but what
exactly does that mean? What will success look like? How are you going to
do it? You can distill this objective using the mnemonic SMART which spells
out the key steps to goal setting. A goal should be:
Take your objective of getting in shape and make it specific. Does that mean
losing weight, running farther, or maybe hitting the gym more often? Clarify
what it means and then break it down into measurable, attainable pieces.
These pieces become your plan. Aiming for interim benchmarks and
achieving them increases your odds of reaching your ultimate goal. If getting
in shape means losing 20 pounds by March 30, break that into smaller
increments and fix dates to achieve each increment—perhaps three pounds
by January 15, another three by January 30 and so on. Your goal becomes
A common reason New Year’s resolutions fail is that we have too many of
them. Each of us has a finite amount of will power not to mention time and
energy limitations. If you have too many goals, your effort may be pulled in
too many directions and you may become frustrated. Choose just one or two
over-arching goals for 2021.
Don’t let past failures with New Year’s resolutions deter you from setting
your sights for 2021. It takes courage to identify goals but without them you
will muddle through each day’s routine again and again and again until a
year has passed. You’ll be a year older but chances are, you won’t be any
closer to becoming a better you.
Set aside some time and identify your goals for the coming year. Be specific
and create a plan to achieve them. In the words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t
know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”