Today we´re starting a new year, happy 2023! 🙂
It´s usually the day when, after reviewing the year that´s just gone (and why not, thanking it for everything it brought to us, and what we learned from it), we begin to think about what we want to change or achieve from now on.
Many people do this in the form of new year´s resolutions: things like exercising more, eating better, starting to save... The thing is, if we leave them as that, vague generic sentences, it´s really difficult to put them into practice in a way that´s effective and long lasting. They often become wishful thinking: we wish for them to magically happen on their own.
Let me propose to you two other options: one is choosing a new habit you want to establish, and another one is to set a goal or objective to achieve for yourself.
I hope to be able to talk more about habits in the near future: my reading list for this year includes the book Atomic habits, by James Clear 🙂
About goals and objectives I can tell you a bit more, because they´re an essential part of any coaching process. In coaching, we work with the SMART acronym when defining goals. Leaving aside the meaning of the word itself, each letter in the acronym points to a characteristic of a well defined goal:
- S for Specific: the more specific, the better: what exactly do you want to achieve?
- M for Measurable: how will you know that you have achieved it? What measure will you use?
- A for Achievable: is it possible to achieve that goal?
- R for Realistic: how realistic is this for you at this moment?
- T for Time-bound: when do you want to achieve it by?
There are some variations of this acronym, but the idea is basically the same: making the goal as tangible as possible, bringing those generic and vague ideas "down to Earth", so that they don´t stay up in the air like nice words that are easily swept by the changing winds.
And while we´re at it, why not making our goal even SMARTER, adding two more letters?
- E for Ecological: I´m not referring to the Environment in general, but rather to the way your goal affects your personal environment in particular (your family, your work, your free time...) Who or what is going to be impacted by your decision of pursuing this goal? Is that impact going to be positive, or negative?
- R for Reward: what´s going to be your reward once you achieve that goal? What do you want it for? What value is it going to bring to you? How are you going to feel?
I particularly love these last two letters, because they point out aspects that we don´t often think about. Ecological thinking reminds us that we´re not isolated individuals; on the contrary, we influence each other and our surroundings as well. Identifying any possible impact beforehand, especially if it´s negative, will allow us to reach out to whoever we need to and earn their support, so that we can make adjustments to make it easier to progress towards our goal.
And very often we get obsessed with achieving a certain goal or objective without really knowing what we want it for. The question here is not why - I´m sure we all have all kinds of reasons and justifications why it makes sense to go for whatever we want to achieve: going back to the examples I mentioned earlier, we know that a good diet and regular exercise are good for our health, we know we should have some emergency savings in case they´re ever needed, etc. etc. etc. That´s the theory, and we all know it very well, but that´s not enough.
The question is what for. What benefit are you going to get from this, once you´ve achieved it? What´s going to be your reward? It has to be something personal, something of value to you, something meaningful, because that´s the motivation that´s going to help you to hang in there when the initial excitement is gone and you still have a long way ahead of you. Could it be wearing that dress you like so much, the one you look so nice in, next summer? Maybe reaching your retirement age with enough agility to be able to play with your grandchildren? Or perhaps having saved enough to be able to finally go and visit the Taj Mahal?
Whatever it is, the good thing about goals and objectives is that they´re a lot more tangible than resolutions, so I encourage you, if you really want to make progress and get results this year, to use the SMARTER acronym to go wherever you decide. And if you´re not very sure how to define your own goal, or how to start working towards it, why not contacting a professional coach, who can walk alongside you?