MU Psych Central – Get S.M.A.R.T.

It’s not too late to turn around your resolutions!

by Dr. Nicolle Mayo – February 10, 2017

Statistics reported by Forbes and other media forums show that out of 40% of Americans that make New Year’s resolutions, less than 10% actually succeed in keeping them. A problem? Perhaps for those who want to seriously make some positive life changes, this information has implications for general goal setting, motivation, and completion.

The majority of Americans develop resolutions related to losing weight, eating healthier, self-improvements, improving financial management, and quitting smoking every year. These are all great changes to aspire to complete! And while there is nothing wrong with any of these goals, the language, objective, and coordination behind them seem to deter many people from successfully achieving them. Why? Because many people are not acting S.M.A.R.T.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive. Setting up goals to be S.M.A.R.T. has shown considerable promise according to research. Sending one positive message, text, or e-mail to one friend a day for a month, or walking for 5 minutes around the office everyday for a week explicitly targets each of these S.M.A.R.T. areas. Although the goals above may seem overly simplistic for some, they are just the right size for others. Making S.M.A.R.T. goals is still subjective to the goal setter, but should still be reasonable enough to be easily achieved at first. Once habit and consistency yield success in maintaining these behaviors across time, more challenging goals can be introduced. It is better to start with a small success, than aim big and fail right away. Doing the latter often serves as a deterrent to actually completing the goal.

Many people develop vague, overly ambitious, and unrealistic goals, which often results in frustration and giving up. We miss the small baby steps. For example, many people who want to eat healthy might decide to try a whole new diet change. The decide to go “all in” with a certain repertoire of foods, serving sizes, time frames of eating, etc. This is A LOT of change at once. Often it requires a complete 180- degree change from our regular habits and routines that previously brought some sort of comfort. Completely changing those routines can feel chaotic and insurmountable, yet many of us feel that in order to make change, and fast, we have to jump in. We forget about the shock of this incredible change to our body and mind. We really need to get rid of this “all or nothing” thinking.

Why not try introducing another fruit or veggie to the diet everyday for a week to see how that goes? If we accomplish this 70 to 80% of the time, perhaps we try again for the next week. If we maintain this change for more than 80% of the time, perhaps we add another dietary change for a couple of weeks. Or, if we find that adding this fruit or veggie everyday did not work, perhaps we need to identify the problem around this behavior, and make modifications. Awareness, flexibility, and patience are key. We may not get it right every day, but each new day is a new opportunity to try to get it right again.

Inviting realistic accountability into our goal setting is also helpful. People can be great motivators, whether they check-in on us, or actually perform the desired behavior changes with us. The social time, comradery, or competition between others and us often inspires more consistent change. Why not try it? Other methods, like recording progress via paper and pencil or phone app also promotes self-monitoring, which also increases goal completion. We LOVE seeing our own progress; this really is a self-motivator to continue our goal.

Don’t let your New Year’s resolution lose steam or dry out due to a couple of bad days or weeks. Re-visit your goals and try again. Assess their S.M.A.R.T. capacity and modify as necessary. Need help with this? Ask for a friend’s honest feedback and be open to trying something new. Remember, as human beings, we thrive on routine. Changing too much of it at once can throw us off and totally negate the positive changes we are trying to make. Take small bites. Pun intended.

MU Psych Central is supported by the Mansfield Psychology Department, which includes Dr. Gretchen Sechrist, Department Chair and Associate Professor, who specializes in Social Psychology, Dr. Brian Loher, Professor, our Human Resource Management specialist, Dr. Francis Craig, Professor, expert in Mind/Body Health, Dr. Karri Verno, Associate Professor, who specializes in Lifespan Development and Forensic Psychology and Nicolle Mayo, Assistant Professor, expert in Marriage and Family Therapy.

Idea/Concept: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Videography: Andrew Moore, Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Dr. Nicolle Mayo
Anchor: Dr. Nicolle Mayo

Produced by Vogt Media
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