Get SMART: Why Goals and Good Habits Beat New Year’s Resolutions Every Time

December 13, 2021

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Hey friends, and welcome to Episode 107 of It’s About Time – a Podcast sharing stories and strategies to inspire better Work, Life and Balance. I’m your host time management coach, Anna Dearmon Kornick and today’s episode is all about making things happen in the new year.

Actually – today’s episode is really about why New Year’s Resolutions rarely result in making things happen. They just don’t seem to work.

We can all agree that resolutions are well intentioned. When you’re standing on the edge of a new year, considering all of the possibilities that lie ahead, that fresh start feeling makes you want to stand up a little straighter and strive to make this year better than the last. 

So we think about some things we want to do differently, set some resolutions and then barrel into the year. Before we know it, instead of eating healthier, we’re chowing down on cheetos or adding more chocolate to our ice cream after dinner. We’re skipping that workout, and then skipping the next one, too. With every wrong move we feel bad until we just give up altogether and vow to do better next year.

It’s no wonder that most New Year’s Resolutions crash and burn by January 17th, and some people set the same resolution year after year – even though they see little to no progress. Let’s make this the year you step out of the resolution revolving door and get some real success for yourself.

So today, we’re talking about:

  • 3 reasons why setting New Year’s Resolutions just doesn’t work and what to do instead
  • Two simple strategies to actually follow through with your plans for the new year
  • The one thing you need to make your dreams a reality (seriously!)
  • The rare occasion that setting a New Year’s Resolution actually makes sense

I’ve also got you covered if…

…you want to set goals this year, but you’re not sure where to start, or it feels overwhelming. Or you KNOW you need to set goals, but you’re having trouble carving out the time.

If that’s you, then I’ve got something exciting up my sleeve just for you! This year, for the first time, I’m hosting a LIVE goal setting workshop so you can plan your best year ever and set SMART goals using the exact methods I share in this episode, and that dozens of my 1:1 time management coaching clients have used to map out their goals for the year ahead.

Join me for Ready. Set. Goals! A LIVE 90 minute, interactive goal setting workshop on December 28th. 

In Ready. Set. Goals! We’ll use my simple 3-part system for setting goals with purpose and intention. Setting goals and making a plan for your year doesn’t have to be complicated, stuffy or boring. 

2022 is your year. It’s our year! So join me for Ready. Set. Goals! On December 28th. Yes – that weird week between Christmas and New Years when you don’t know what day it is and you’re living in sweatpants can be the ideal time to get your gameplan for 2022.  Grab your seat at annadkornick.com/goals and let’s do this together!

Here we go. Three reasons why New Year’s Resolutions rarely last beyond January 17th and what to do instead.

Those three reasons?

  1. They’re too vague
  2. There’s no plan
  3. There’s no accountability.

So let’s look at each one of these reasons why resolutions fail and what to do instead.

First – New Year’s Resolutions typically fail because they’re too vague.

You see – a resolution is typically a little open ended.

I want to eat healthier. I want to run more. Spend more time with family. 

So what do we do instead?

The not-so-secret secret to success is setting goals, not resolutions. 

But – there’s a little more too it than just setting goals, because if you set goals that – like resolutions – are too vague or open-ended, you won’t get very far with those either.

That’s why I recommend setting goals that are SMART.

And by smart, I mean that they are 

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable or adventurous

R – Relevant

And T – Time Bound

Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient in the SMART Goal recipe…

  1. Specific – Is your goal clear? Is it easy to understand?
    1. Here’s what I mean by that.
    2. Let’s compare these two different goals:
      1. I want to get healthy in 2022.
      2. I want to exercise 3 times a week in 2022. 
    3. The first – I want to get healthy – is pretty vague. Get healthy could mean any number of things. It could mean running a race, or changing your diet, losing weight or meditating. 
    4. The second is crystal clear. There’s no confusion and you know exactly what you’re doing. When you know what you’re doing, you’re more likely to do it!
  2. Measureable – Your goal needs to answer the question – How will I know when I’m successful?
    1. Or – How much? How often?
    2. That looks like – I want to run a half marathon by October. I will renovate the bathroom by July. I will lose 10 pounds. I will organize all of my photos. All being the measurable part.
    3. Or – like the first example, I will exercise 3 times a week in 2022.
  3. Next is the A – Attainable OR Adventurous.
    1. Attainable is probably the most common meaning for the A. So I’ll cover that one first. 
    2. Is your goal realistic? 
    3. I will climb Mt. Everest in February might not be realistic if you’ve never gone hiking before in your life. 
    4. I will make one million dollars by June might not be attainable if you make friendship bracelets as a side gig.
    5. And while both of those examples are kinda wild, it can be easy for our eyes to be bigger than our stomachs and bite off more than we can chew with goals. 
    6. So – I encourage you to be realistic with your goals…. BUT
    7. What’s something you want to do that feels impossible – a big, scary, audacious goal. But Something that might kinda actually be possible. Something that working toward would stretch you as a person, and help you grow as a professional. That’s an Adventure goal. The other side of the A. And I encourage you to set at least one Adventure goal. 
    8. This might look like breaking your sales record at work, or being the top ranked realtor on your team.. Maybe it’s Starting the business or hitting publish on the podcast. You probably already know what it is in your gut. 
  4. Ok – so R. This one stands for Relevant.
    1. A lot of times you see this as realistic when people teach smart goals. I prefer relevant and here’s why. The year ahead is important, but what about the rest of your life, your long term goals – the ones that take more than a year to achieve – and the story you want to tell as you look back on your life? That’s why it’s important to set goals that a Relevant to the overall big picture of your life.
    2. How does your goal or goals align with your long-term career aspirations? 
    3. How does this move you closer to who you want to be in 5 or 10, or 25 years? 
    4. Now – I’m not discounting a fun, random goal here or there. Sometimes setting a goal that involves trying something new can change the course of the rest of your life in the best way possible. 
  5. And last – Time-Bound
    1. Typically the T for Time-Bound defines the deadline or the repetition of your goal.
    2. This could look like milestones you want to achieve by certain dates, or simply how often you plan to do something. 

So to recap:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Attainable or adventurous

R – Relevant

T – Time Bound

If you set goals that are SMART, instead of choosing some vague resolutions, you’ll be way more likely to follow through and make things happen.

Okay – next. 

Resolutions typically fail because there’s no plan or system for actually following through.

To be honest – goals can also fail if there’s no plan, but when they’re SMART it makes it much easier to put a plan together. 

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits says this:

“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.”

Systems? At first glance, that sounds complicated.

And this is probably just me, but when I hear the word system, I think of those contraptions like that game Mouse Trap from when we were little? Where a ball rolls and knocks over a line of dominos and the last domino nudges a toy car, and the car bumps into something else, which then causes something else to happen and then the mouse trap falls? Are you picturing this? Do you know what I’m talking about here?

Google tells me this is called a Rube Goldberg machine, where a bunch of elaborate systems perform a super simple task. Honestly, that sounds like my tendency to want to over complicate things… 

Anyway – “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.”

One way to create a system to reach your goals is by making a project plan, outlining the steps and milestones it takes to reach your end point.

Another way to create a system is to build a habit. 

See – most of the time when we decide that we want to start a new habit – say, working out 3 times a week, we just you know… decide we’re going to do it and then assume that our willpower will kick in or that everything will just work out.

And what usually happens? We forget, or we make excuses or something comes up. 

Instead – start by designing your habit. When you know that habits are made up of 3 different parts – the cue, the routine and the reward – you can set yourself up to actually follow through.

And I’ll add here for those of you who have read atomic habits – James Clear actually breaks habits into 4 parts, the cue, the craving, the response and the reward. I like to keep things simple, so I’m going with Charles Duhigg’s cue, routine and reward from his book, The Power of Habit.

So what does cue, routine, reward mean?

The cue is what prompts you to do the thing. Seeing your running shoes and workout clothes laid out beside your bed. Putting your vitamins next to your toothbrush. A calendar reminder going off that reminds you to meditate. 

The routine is the habit you’re building. It’s going for the run, taking your vitamins, meditating.

Then the reward is how you feel, or what you do to reward yourself afterward. The best kind of rewards – the ones that really help habits stick – are intrinsic rewards – meaning they’re internal, psychological and make you feel satisfied or proud. But – sometimes it can take a while to feel the intrinsic rewards, so creating an external reward is important to really get the habit to stick.

This could look like watching your favorite Netflix show only on days that you run, or putting an X on a habit tracker to represent your progress. 

When you set a goal that includes some repetition, do yourself a big favor and set it up as a habit instead of just hoping that it will happen on a regular basis. 

Oh – and remember how I said that there’s one rare occasion where setting a resolution makes sense? It can make sense to set a resolution when you want to infuse an overarching idea into your year. Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you set a resolution to have more fun – and, let’s say you write that resolution “have more fun” on a sticky note at your desk or tucked into your planner. Whenever you start to make plans for the day or for the week, you can ask yourself – am I doing something fun today? Or you can generally just remind yourself to ask the question – How can I make this more fun? It’s less about quantifying fun – like I want to have fun 3 times a week, and more about infusing the idea of fun – or whatever else you hope to create – throughout anything you do.

But – in most cases? You’re going to want to go with a goal and create a system, like a habit for that goal. 

Finally, the third reason why resolutions often fail is because there’s no accountability.

Sure – maybe we go around the table at lunch on New Year’s Day and share our resolutions with family, but that’s usually it.

And setting up SMART goals and a system to follow through – both of those steps are incredible

But if you really want to make something happen, you’ve got to get some accountability. 

Having an accountability partner with regular check-ins makes you 95% more likely to achieve your goal. 95! That number always astounds me. That’s almost 100!

To me, finding accountability is a total no brainer, because it’s just so powerful.

So – how can you get some accountability and make things happen in the year ahead.

Here are a few ideas:

First – the tried and true accountability partner. Find a friend going after a similar goal and set up regular check-ins. 

Second – join a mastermind group. A mastermind group is collection of individuals who are working toward similar goals that learn from each other, solve problems, and hold each other accountable to their goals. This past year, I was a part of Kat Schmoyer’s mastermind alongside Stephanie Kase, Natasha Coyle and Jess Aiken. Every other week, we met to talk through challenges and discuss what’s next in our lives and businesses. 

Recently, I brought together a group of women Felter, Cat, Stephanie and Kimberly, because we’re all pursuing similar projects in our business. We check in weekly in Slack and meet via zoom every other week. We’ll be sharing our 2022 goals soon so we can cheer each other on and hold each other accountable to following through. 

Third – work with a coach. Yes, I am a coach, but I’ve personally sought the support of coaches since I discovered what they are. If you’ve ever asked me for a book recommendation, I probably told you to run, not walk to your nearest bookstore or Amazon cart to grab a copy of The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. When I found this book, it was exactly what I needed at that point in my life. And I typically re-read or re-listen to the book at least once a year for refresher. 

In The One Thing, one of the many things they talk about is how working with a coach is basically a non-negotiable if you truly want to level up and create the impact you envision for yourself. I honestly didn’t realize just how many successful people are working with coaches. For so long I thought everybody was just figuring things out on their own.

The thing is – We tend to get in our own way, get in our heads, and over complicate things – but working with a coach – a coach who’s trained to ask powerful questions from an unbiased perspective – can unlock hidden potential, rev up your decision making, and give you the push you need to take those scary steps forward.

I was meeting with my coach – Julie –  the moment I decided that I would be a Time Management Coach. I was working with a coach – Kristen – the year that I launched my 1:1 coaching program and booked myself solid for the entire year. 

And the beauty of coaching is that you can work with a coach to solve or make progress in specific areas of your life. Currently, I’m working with a coach – Kristen – to make sure our family is set up for long-term financial success with budgeting, savings and investments. 

And working with a coach doesn’t always have to mean expensive 1:1 coaching – it can look like participating in a group coaching program and learning alongside others. That’s one of my favorite ways to create accountability and community at the same time. 

So there you have it – three reasons why resolutions just don’t work:

  • They’re vague
  • There’s no plan
  • There’s no accountability

And three things to do instead

  • Set goals that a Specific, Measurable, Attainable or Adventurous, Relevant and Timebound
  • Set up a system by making a plan or designing a habit
  • Get some accountability with a partner, a mastermind or a coach

If you’d like some help making sure your 2022 goals are SMART, I’m raising my hand to be your goal setting coach. 

For the first time ever, I’m hosting a LIVE goal setting workshop to walk you through the exact process I use to plan my year, and help make sure your goals are SMART. This is the method I’ve used with dozens of clients to help them walk into the new year feeling confident, with a clear vision for the future, and ready to live with intention. 2022 is your year. It’s our year! Consider me your goal setting BFF and join me for Ready. Set. Goals! On December 28th. Grab your seat at annadkornick.com/goals and let’s do this together!

Alright – that’s all for today. Thanks so much for tuning in. Talk to you soon!

What will it take you to get from chaos to calm?

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