Way back when I was in third grade, our teacher did a huge activity celebrating the New Year when we got back from holiday vacation. She had us all write down on a piece of paper the thing that we were going to change (our New Year’s Resolution). She turned out the lights in the classroom, lit a candle, and one by one, invited us up to share what thing we were going to change – then we got to rip up the piece of paper and throw it in the garbage can (the next best thing to burning it, since we weren’t allowed to play with fire in the classroom).
She almost had the process of goal-setting right in doing this, but I’ll get into that a bit later.
I’ll always remember this exercise for one reason. One of my classmates got up in front of the group (you have to remember, we were in third grade and had no pride – nobody made fun of anybody else yet and life was just fun) and said that she had always stuck her finger in her ear, gathered up wax, and then eaten it. DISGUSTING. Her New Years Resolution was to never do that again. While I’m so glad she recognized this was a habit she needed to change, I will always associate New Year’s Resolutions with ear wax for the rest of my life.
Something you should know before I go any further is that I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. I believe they are a sad attempt at setting a goal, done for no reason other than the fact that we now have to remember a different year when we date our checks. When you’re truly ready to make a change in your life, it doesn’t matter what time of the year it is – you’ll go through the process of setting a clear goal and figuring out how to make this goal a reality.
Growing up, I was always tall and very skinny (until recently when the weight started catching up with me…but that goal is a whole different article for some other day) and somewhat uncoordinated. But there was something I wanted more than anything in the world. I knew, from the time I was in seventh grade, that I wanted to be able to slam dunk a basketball by the time I was a sophomore in high school. I was going to accomplish this by exercising every day (especially in the off-season) – I even turned out for track to give me added motivation for daily exercise.
I also had a huge sign on my door – it had some clip art of a guy slamming a basketball, and my own handwriting with the date I wanted to be able to slam the ball by. While my sophomore year was the last year that I played basketball for completely other reasons, I did meet my goal because I kept a few things in mind when I set it.
I’m sure you’ve all heard about setting SMART goals. Every presenter/trainer has their own little swing they put on it, and I’m no exception: I actually say that your goal needs to have “SMARTS” – I added a letter and changed the meaning of a few. Here’s a quick run-down.
First, the S – make sure your goals are Specific. Figure out EXACTLY what you want to do – if you want to lose weight – how much? If you want to dunk – dunk what – someone in the pool?
The M – Measurable. You need to know, when you’ve met the goal, that you’ve met it. What is the piece that changes or that signifies excellence? Mine was being able to dunk a basketball. If yours is to lose 10 pounds, fantastic – you have your measurable piece!
The A – one of my twists that’s a bit different from others – Aggressive. Don’t set a goal that’s going to be easy – choose something that you’re going to have to push yourself to make happen.
The R – I actually have two words that go here – Realistic (goes to counteract the A – don’t make it too difficult either – there was no way in the world I could have set my goal for my 8th grade year!). The second is Recorded – WRITE YOUR GOALS DOWN! Post them on your ceiling, on your door, in your car – everywhere that you’ll see them! Be constantly reminded of what the goal is!
The T – your Timeline. You have to say when the final day to accomplish your goal is. Otherwise, it’s just always your dream – but you’re never accountable for it.
My final twist – the second S. If you want to achieve excellence, you must have Support. Through my goal, my teammates all knew what I wanted to do, and they all encouraged me to make it happen. Whether you want to stop a bad habit, change your appearance, or anything else – use your support group! We all hear about how bad peer pressure can be when people are encouraging you to drink, smoke, or whatever else – what we don’t hear enough of is how incredible peer pressure can be when your friends are helping you to succeed!
My final thought to the reader – FORGET about New Year’s Resolutions – think of ear wax when you hear them. How many friends do you have who’ve made New Year’s Resolutions that are completely unplanned and end up failing? Instead of setting a New Year’s Resolution – wait for the right time and the right place to set a goal that has SMARTS!