Resolutions are fun, aren’t they? Unless you’re giving up carbs and pizza—in that case, resolutions are just plain torture. But for the most part, for a few days we get to live in a fantasy world where, with almost no effort, we feel thinner, healthier, happier, more friendly, loving and well-rested. There’s something about a new calendar that creates motivation. And if you feel that motivation, run with it!  

Yet here’s the painful truth: Resolutions take almost no work upfront, but they require incredible willpower to actually achieve. Apparently less than 10 percent of us have that much willpower. So making resolutions is really just an easy way to get a 90 percent guarantee of feeling guilty in the future. Awesome.

Why do so many people fail?

Failure is almost inevitable, because most new challenges equate to change and change is hard. We tend to choose these crazy, audacious goals with unrealistic expectations. Any change of that size will create a large amount of stress. And here’s some science for you: our bodies are programmed to avoid that stress, so when our major resolution goals become overwhelming and drastically impact our “normal”, our brain tells us it’s easiest to just quit. Why? Because, there are no overtly negative repercussions that jar us out of our comfort zone when we quit. We just sail back into the land of Cheetos and reality television that we vowed never to return to forever and ever amen.

So, let’s have a quick check-in. Does your resolution list look something like this?

“In 2017, I will get more organized, lose more weight, drink more water, exercise daily, become a better leader, be more successful at work, stop snacking at night and begin journaling.”

Wow! In a perfect world, that sounds like an award-winning plan but in reality, it’s WAY too complex and very hard to measure tangibly. 

So how can we set expectations and goals for ourselves that have a much higher rate of success? How can this year be different than every other year? I like to follow the “KISS Method”: keep it simple, stupid. Overarching and strict resolutions are destined to fail, so pick one thing and think small.

Small changes over time will lead to monumental results.

What does “keeping it simple” actually mean, though? “Losing weight” might seem like a simple enough resolution, right? Wrong. Choosing a simple goal means you bite it off in tangible chunks. You make a plan for every step of the way and move forward with the next chunk once each small benchmark is reached.

Fail to plan and you can plan to fail. So take the time to research what it will take to achieve your goals and put some feet to your plan. Chart out your map for success and choose S.M.A.R.T. steps for each goal: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely! 

1. Specific 
Give specific details about what it is you’re hoping to accomplish.

2. Measurable
Give it some metrics so you can analyze your progress: pounds to lose, hours of sleep, ounces of water to drink, etc.

3. Attainable
Make sure it’s actually doable. Start with small benchmarks that, if multiplied over time, will guide you to the long-term goal.

4. Realistic
Is the goal realistic to the course you want your life to run? Traveling the world in a year may seem like what you want to do, but with five kids and a full-time job, maybe planning two trips a year to places you’ve never been is a better idea and still a great resolution!

5. Timely
Make sure you create goals that can be achieved in a reasonable amount of time. Setting a goal that will take years to see a payoff is very easy to quit, isn’t it? Set short-term goals within the scary long-term goal timeline.

Here are some examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals compared to some not-so-smart goals to help you get the hang of this:

Bad: Drink more water.
Good: Drink 8 bottles of water at work (1 bottle per hour).

Bad: Become a better leader.
Good: Listen to one leadership podcast on Tuesdays and Thursdays on my drive to work.

Bad: Lose 150 pounds.
Good: Lose 5 pounds in two weeks.

I guarantee you, that most of you reading this would not argue that those “good” goals are too difficult to achieve.

So long story, short: resolutions don’t have to be miserable and you don’t have to fail. Take another look at your list. Keep it simple and smart. I guarantee you’ll arrive in 2018 with more boxes checked off your list than you did when 2017 came around the corner this year. 

Last week Pete outlined resolutions that every non profit and ministry should have (and keep!) for 2017. Check them out. 

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