For 2012, my New Year’s resolution was to make it through the whole year without having any surgery. I thought this was a good goal, until a friend asked me, “How do you plan to accomplish that, and what control do you have over avoiding surgery, anyway?” He was right. This was a desired outcome, not a goal, so I chucked making resolutions for 2012. For 2013, I’m due for a good one. Here it is:
For 2013, I resolve to have an abdominal six-pack!
Anyone that knows me is laughing right now, because they know this goal is not SMART:
Specific—what are the action steps involved? When/where/how do I accomplish these?
Measurable—spelled out in concrete terms, how much or how many, and how do I define the goal as reached?
Attainable—do I have the ability to reach this goal?
Realistic/ Relevant—do I have the will to reach this goal? Is the level of challenge appropriate for me? Why is the goal important to me?
Timely—What is my time frame, and how often do I get feedback on my progress?
A resolution is a process, not an outcome
Just like my 2012 goal, having a six-pack is an outcome, while a SMART goal focuses on the specific efforts and actions to achieve an outcome. This might involve doing 100 reps daily on my Ab-Roller (yes, I have one of those, and I’m not ashamed). Measuring this goal is easy enough. If successful, I will look like this guy:
My resolution breaks down when I consider if it is truly attainable. It isn’t. Dwight Howard will hit 90% of his free throws before my abs look like that. In my history, no amount of weight loss or abdominal exercise has resulted in so much as a two-pack. Without the ability, I certainly won’t have the willingness to reach this goal, the challenge level will be way over my head, and it won’t be realistic. Why did I choose this resolution in the first place? Obviously, I wanted a six-pack because it looks good. However, if I think about the benefits of rock-solid abs, I can find a SMARTer goal.
My truly SMART resolution
Specific—Starting January 1, 2013, I will perform 50 reps daily on my Ab-Roller, which I will place right next to my bed for easy access.
Measurable—Already covered: 50 reps, every day, any time of day, for the entire year. I am permitted to do more if I choose (who knows?).
Attainable—Yes! Not only can I do this, I have done it (a long time ago, probably when Ab-Rollers were really popular). 50 reps is actually a bit easy for me, and I could set the minimum at 75 or 100. However, making the goal easier (but still meaningful) will improve the likelihood of sustaining the activity.
Realistic/ Relevant—Yes! I have the will to do this—not to build a six-pack—but to maintain strong core strength which will protect me from back problems and the occasional punch to the gut.
Timely—I will do this every day, unless I am too sick or injured, and I will know my goal is complete when I hit 50 reps.
Once I have a SMART goal, I’m more likely to stick to it if I have a realistic view of success. Since my resolution focuses entirely on action, I know going in that it won’t be easy, and that I will have to work (and suffer a bit). I also know that the need for struggle is part of what makes success feel so worthwhile.
Involving others can also keep me on my game. How hard can it be to find an Ab-Roller partner? I can also appoint a “coach” to keep me accountable. A background in personal training is not needed; anyone good at nagging is qualified.
Finally, I can print a page with a 30-day calendar, write a heading “Check Mark = 50 Ab-Roller reps completed,” and magnet it to the refrigerator, allowing any resident of the house to notice missing check marks and shame me back into action if I miss a day.
Feel free to email me in 2013 and ask if I stuck to my goal, because I’m determined to claim success, and desperate to avoid admitting to hundreds of readers that I flaked. You’d be surprised how much writing down a goal and making it public can enhance motivation.
Whether or not you set any resolutions for 2013, I hope it’s a happy, healthy, and successful year for you.
One Year Later… Did My SMART Resolution Work?
Nope. It came to a screeching halt around mid-March. Up to that point, I was doubling my daily goal of 50 reps on most days, marking my checklist, and bragging to anyone who would listen (which was pretty much nobody). Why did I stop, you ask? One night, I fell asleep early and missed a session. Two days later, it happened again. The day after that, when my abdominal muscles did not atrophy and my back did not ache, I asked myself, “Why am I doing this, exactly?”
That’s where the resolution fell apart: it did not feel sufficiently relevant (“R”). I wasn’t suffering any physical pain–except when performing 100 crunches–and no one had even so much as threatened to punch me in the gut. Without a felt need, I could no longer sustain the motivation for this exercise. I continued with all my other health and fitness practices, which I had already been keeping steady for the past five years, and one year later, I still feel really good despite abandoning my ab-building goal.
Sometimes, you just don’t need a new resolution.
by Jason Sackett, LCSW
Professional Staff at CWFL