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New Year’s Resolutions suck. They just don’t work! I’ve set dozens of resolutions over the years, sometimes two or three every January, and I’d say about three of them ever stuck. Assuming I’ve set three dozen, that’s 36 resolutions, 33 of which failed.

According to a survey conducted by the University of Scranton, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolution. With numbers that low, what’s the point?

The problem is that your typical New Year’s Resolution is too damn vague. “I’m going to eat healthy this year,” just doesn’t cut it. “I want to be a better artist,” is similarly doomed.

On top of that, without some sort of accountability baked into your Resolution (with a capital “R”), you probably won’t really care if you fail.

Start this year the right way…

Your vague resolutions do serve a purpose. They give you a general idea of what you want to do, but without a clear plan to get wherever the Hell you’re going, you’re essentially wandering down a dark alley of uncertainty.

Start this year the right way by plugging some numbers or setting a more clear goal. For instance: “I want to lose 40 lbs, healthily, by the end of the year.” Or, “I would like to be proficient at figure drawing in 6 months.”

These clear goals give you more precise targets than vague, crappy resolutions. There’s still no hard plan to get there, but these ambitious achievements are what we like to call “stretch goals.”

Break it down.

Once you have a stretch goal or two for the New Year, break it down into manageable tasks. The best way I’ve found to pull this off is by setting a SMART goal for your stretch goal.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a SMART goal is, they are an idea developed by General Electric from the 1940’s through the 1980’s to help their staff succeed at their goals. They had employees break down their goals into a framework.

A SMART goal had to be…

Specific – we took care of that with the stretch goal, but your sub-goals or tasks have to be specific, as well.

Measurable – hard numbers! If you can’t measure what success looks like, you’ll never know if you got there. Find some way to measure when you will be successful.

Achievable – have you thought about the steps it will take to meet your goal?

Realistic – are you actually able to do the steps it will take to achieve your goal? Can you commit to the process?

Time-bound (or on a timeline) – what’s the due date? How many milestones are you going to have?

Here’s an example…

For weight loss, it’s commonly cited as 80% diet, 20% exercise, so tackle the diet changes first. This is what a SMART diet goal would look like:

I will slowly change my diet to make it sustainable. To begin, I will document all the food I eat at least one day per week for two weeks, then two days per week for two weeks, etc. until I am documenting every meal I eat in 14 weeks or less.

Further, I will make every effort to replace at least one meal per day for one week with a healthy alternative, except for “cheat days” which I will have once per week on Saturdays. On week two I will replace two meals daily with healthy alternatives, on week three, three meals, etc.

By the end of one month I will replace all of my meals with healthy alternatives, except for “cheat days.”

This is a highly specific set of goals revolving around sustainable diet changes, you can measure your progress, the steps are achievable by most people, it isn’t unrealistic to expect this from yourself, and there’s a clear timeline. Best of all? It doesn’t rely on calorie counts or anything that typically puts people off of a diet change!

Now to commit.

Stretch goals and SMART sub-goals are great, but how do you make sure they stick?

We know that willpower sucks, and if you want to know how to make a habit stick, I’ve already written about that, too. But here’s a little extra juice for your New Year’s Resolutions to make sure you don’t fall into the 92% of people who fail this year:

Get an accountability partner or join a group of people who will keep you focused on your new goal.

According to Linda Galindo, having some sort of personal accountability can increase your odds of success by up to 85%. She actually wrote a book about it – The 85% Solution: How Personal Accountability Guarantees Success.

There are tons of places to find accountability partners on the internet. I recommend lurking on /r/selfimprovement and /r/theXeffect subreddits to find someone to help you out.

Are you ready?

Plan out your goals, find a friend (or complete stranger) to challenge and keep you accountable, and get started!

I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year. To kick it off right, let me know what your stretch resolution is in the comments, then create one SMART goal for the first 2 or 3 months of the year. If you need help hammering it out, just let me know in your comment and I’ll personally help you create a goal you can stick to!

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