This article begins with an edited copy of an article I read in the Herald-Sun newspaper, December 29, 2007, Melbourne, Australia by journalists KATE UEBERGANG and MEGAN MCNAUGHT.
Following the newspaper article I have included tips on how to start the SMART plan for achieving those New Years' resolutions.
We conclude this article with a surprise bonus technique, Letter from the Future.
You will need to read through the whole article to appreciate the benefits of Letter from the Future but I do promise the technique is worth a try.
This is the time of year we decide to remake ourselves anew.
But are we just setting ourselves up for failure?
Whether it's a determination to lose weight, a pledge to quit smoking or a vow to master a new language and learn to play the piano, New Year's resolutions are often set in a blaze of inspiration and determination.
So why are they often abandoned by the second week of January?
And why do we make the same old resolutions 12 months later?
A new year is a logical time to reassess goals and dreams for the future, but experts say if you want to achieve real change you need to do more than just wish for it.
The Trick in Goal Setting
"The trick in goal setting is that most people confuse goals with desired outcomes," says psychologist Prof Bob Montgomery.
"You may wish to lose some weight, and people think that's goal setting."
"But that is good intentions or wishful thinking."
"Goal setting is actually laying out a plan for actions you can take to lead to a desired outcome."
"One way people fail is they set goals that ore outside their control.
"And you have to set a goal that has a chance of success."
"If you set unachievable goals you will fail."
Try a Life-Long Resolution
Clinical hypnotherapist Mark Stephens has more than 25 years' experience in helping people achieve their personal goals.
Stephens says, "Over the next few days our resolutions are going to be, 'get fit', 'lose weight', 'get healthy' and 'stop smoking'."
"People say they're going to set a New Year's resolution, but the problem is the New Year only lasts for a day or so."
"It needs to be a whole-year resolution or a life-long resolution."
"Already that mind increases your chance of success."
So it's very impressive if we want to do more than just dream and wish for significant changes in our lives during 2008 and beyond we need to start the SMART plan.
If you are already familiar with the SMART way to achieve your goals then serve as a timely reminder of how effective the method really is. If you do not yet know how simple the SMART system works then read on.
Goals must be SMART
To set and achieve clearly defined goals they must be SMART goals.
· S specific – vague goals lead to vague, half-hearted attempts to achieve them.
· M measurable – we need to be ableto evaluate and quantify our progress.
· A attractive – if we do not really want it, we will not really go for it.
· R realistic – we must be capable of achieving the goal.
· T time-framed – we need to have an appropriate time frame for a result.
A simple example of a SMART plan for success is when Cassandra set herself a goal to lose some weight. Here's what Cassandra did –
S – I plan to lose weight in time for my birthday party.
M – I will lose 5 kg's to reach my target weight.
A – When I reach my weight goal I will fit into my new outfit in time for the party.
R – Not sure if I can make it within two months but I will try.
T – I will complete my goal by the target date of February 6, 2008.
A key to maintaining your motivation is to see that you are moving in the direction you want to go and that you are getting the benefit of your efforts.
To do this you need to be able to measure your success. If your actions bring you closer to your goal, if you can see that what you are doing really works, then your motivation will increase.
If you also understand that change of any kind is difficult and that in any change process you will not feel motivated all the time, you will be able to work with the degree of motivation you feel you have on any given day or moment.
I have a surprise bonus to this article I promised earlier. This technique will help with your motivation in many ways.
Letter from the Future
At first this may seem like a strange, even uncomfortable technique. In fact, although incredibly simple to do it is an unbelievably powerful tool to have in your goal setting tool bag of tricks.
If there's only one thing you do for yourself in 2008 for self-improvement then do this!
Many people including a senior leadership team of the Royal Australian Air Force, test pilots, captains of industry, school teachers, builders, construction workers, accountants and I have used this tool with success.
I can attribute this one exercise and the rest of the material from the book, ' Coach Yourself – make real changes in your life' by Anthony Grant and Jane Greene (Pearson Education Limited) as helping me get back on track after a time of personal turmoil.
Grab a large piece of writing paper and put at the top of the page the date December 31, 2008 . Yes – twelve months from now.
Now imagine the year 2008 has been and gone almost and has gone really well for you.
Things have turned out just the way you dreamed of. You have kept all your New Years' resolutions and have achieved all other goals you set for yourself during the year.
You are now going to write from the future telling someone just how good it feels to have achieved so much during 2008. And the person you are writing to is YOU!
That's right – imagine while writing your letter to yourself just how your life fees if you were totally satisfied and fulfilled with what you hope to achieve in the next twelve months.
Writing the Letter from the Future allows you to think more clearly about aspects of your life and to identify clearly all the things that are most important to you right now.
Engage Your Emotions
As the experts have told us, just having a vision or dream of a happy future is not enough to get us there. You could sit down and think about what it is you want to achieve and imagine yourself living the dream. But writing the letter helps to engage your emotions.
It seems this is where the power of the letter lies. Writing it down allows you to reach deep into your self and draw from inner motivators. It is the ideal combination of thought and action with the least amount of energy!
The letter is for you and no one else except if you choose to share your letter with another.
In the letter you can explore any aspect of your life, current or future. You need never show it to anyone.
The closer to your deepest feelings you can get the more useful you will find the Letter from the Future exercise to be.
Just for Procrastinators
But personal experience tells me (and I was number one at procrastination) that some of you will not take the time to complete this simple technique.
That's ok. I've got something for you and it should take no more than a few minutes to complete.
Try right now to complete this sentence:
'If everything in my life had gone as well as it could have, by now I'd be. . . '
Then ask yourself:
'Which part of my life is not fulfilling that I think would have fulfilled if I had achieved this? What can I do about it now? '
Now do something!
This item is for educational purposes only. In no sense is the information contained here meant to replace qualified medical, professional, legal, financial or psychological advice. Consult a qualified medical practitioner or psychiatrist in cases of illness, pregnancy, distress or doubt.