The most exciting part of a new year is that feeling of reinvention and pure potentiality- your life, your world, your year is a blank canvas, and you can paint whatever you like! Remember the canvas will be painted whether you decide to be the artist or to leave it up to chance. When you get to the end of 2017, what would you like to see?
Maybe. Go all in, or don’t bother going. When you use a word like try, or your goal lacks specificity, you’ve already created an exit strategy. Sometimes even the goal itself isn’t that exciting to you—like saving money. If the goal is going to require a lot of effort, and you don’t have a way to reward yourself along the way, or penalize yourself for not sticking to it, 2017’s goal will soon become a “maybe” for 2018. Get more specific about your plan, like “I want to save $100 per month, so I’m going to switch from cable to Netflix (-$30), order 1 less seamless meal a week (-$60), and find a new place to get my eyebrows threaded (-$10).”
Expansive. When the goal is too broad, we forget to take the first steps that will get us there- which are the most important! Instead of setting a goal to “write a novel,” try “write for an hour a day, 3 days a week” and see where that takes you. Want to go vegan? Try eating plant-based meals 2 days a week. Or start the first quarter by cutting out meat, then in the spring, lose milk and eggs, then in the fall abandon eggs and cheese. By adapting yourself in small ways you’re more likely to stick to your new habits and move toward the lifestyle you desire.
Hindrance. Sometimes there are obstacles blocking your way like your environment, the people in your social circle, lack of research and resources, or habits that you need to break. Without a plan to remove or work through those obstacles, you’ll set yourself up for disappointment. If you want to spend less money on clothes in 2017, start by unsubscribing to emails and removing shopping apps from your phone. Notify your shopping pals that you’d like to do a clothing swap to refresh your wardrobes for free, then spend a weekend simplifying your closet by creating a stylish capsule wardrobe and donate the rest.
The SMURF Goal: specific, measurable, under your control, regimented, favorable. You may have heard of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely), but when making your New Year’s Resolution, try using a SMURF goal to increase your effectiveness.
Specific– who what where when why and how. Clarity of purpose creates the picture in your mind. Consider asking yourself how, who, what, where, when, and why questions to create laser focus for yourself. The clearer the picture, the more you and the world start aligning to make it happen!
Measurable– how will you know when you’ve accomplished the goal? If your goal is to reduce stress, how can you compare your current state to the desired state? Then break the big goal into smaller measurements so you can celebrate the little wins along the way.
Under your control– let your goal be something you can truly master. If your desire is to improve your relationship with your brother, remember it takes two to tango. You can set goals for yourself that are actionable items you can realistically achieve, but you can’t control the other person’s response.
Routine– if it’s not on your calendar, it won’t get done. Successful time management involves a disciplined approach to carving out time for your priorities, instead of getting swallowed up by the more urgent but less important. Is there something you can say no to, in order to have more time to say yes to what truly matters to you this year? The formula for cultivating change is repetition + reward = new habit. Master repetition by scheduling it into your routine.
Favorable– let your goal be stated in a favorable way—favorable for you and favorable for others. Instead of “I want to stop wasteful spending,” try “I will be mindful in my spending so that I can save for a down payment on a home for my future family.” If you’re stumped about how to state it, consider these three questions:
How will this add value to my life?
What tradeoffs will I have to make?
How will I celebrate when I achieve it?
Here’s a comparison:
MEH: I want to travel more. SMURF: I will travel to Costa Rica in September with my sister. I will need to save $3,000 in 6 months. Here is how I will accomplish this goal.
Cancel my class pass membership (-$160/mo) and run in the park 3 days a week, and do yoga to the people 2 days a week instead
Take Via’s 4 days a week instead of Taxis (-$160/mo)
Make my own lunch 3 days a week (-$120/month)
Do my own laundry (-$40/month)
Do my own nails (-$40/month)
My last piece of personal advice is to look at your goals every day. Write yourself a mission statement, or make a vision board, hanging it in a prominent place to keep you inspired. For more info on goal-setting, check out Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”– specifically habits # 2 and #3.
Wishing you a very happy and very healthy (and effective!) New Year!