With the final moments of 2013 ticking away as I type, my over-achieving type brain has been focusing on my goals for the coming year for several weeks now. I’m not sure why we, as humans, tend to see the beginning of the new year as the time to re-evaluate our lives and set new goals, but I know I’m not the only one who takes some time to reflect on where I am and where I’m going as another year draws to an end.
What can we all do to set realistic goals for the coming year and make sure we set ourselves up for success? It seems to me that the key to success is really straight forward and probably something you’ve heard a million times before–the key to success is setting SMART goals. You’ve heard of SMART goals before, right? Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Time-bound. Okay, so we know what it means, but what does it actually mean in practice?
For 2013, I set all sorts of goals for myself. I was new at this whole blogging thing this time last year, and I saw all these other healthy living bloggers posting their 2013 goals on their blogs, so I found myself doing the same. I set personal goals, professional goals and fitness goals. I lived up to a few of them, but the main problem was that I set so many goals, I couldn’t really focus my attention on anything in particular. Aside from the SMART philosophy, if I can give you one piece of advice, it would be to set one or two important goals for yourself, and focus on those and those alone. Save the rest for future years.
I had one primary goal for 2013 though, that I really followed through with. My goal was to complete a virtual challenge called “13 in 2013“, which essentially boiled down to completing 13 running races (of any distance I chose) during the year. I truly believe that the reason I achieved this goal is because it stacked up to the SMART theory on goal setting. Let’s break it down.
Specific. Yep, this goal was very specific and very clear on what I needed to do. I had 12 months and 13 races to complete. Easy enough, and definitely not ambigious.
Measurable: Absolutely, this goal was measurable. I kept track of my races on my blog throughout the year, so I could always check my progress. I knew at any given point in the year how many races I had completed and how many more I had to go to meet my goal.
Attainable: I had never really kept track of how many races I had done before, but I never doubted that this goal was attainable. I thought it might be a stretch, especially pushing myself to get out the door for races during the cold weather months here in Dayton, but that’s what made it a goal. If it wasn’t challenging, it wouldn’t be worth aspiring to achieve. But, it wasn’t so far out there that it seemed impossible.
Relevant: Running 13 races in 2013 was a relevant goal for me as I’ve become something of a fitness junkie and running races is a fun social activity for me. Plus, it keeps me active and gives me something to blog about. Running is a hobby, so this goal fit my lifestyle seamlessly.
Time-bound: Yep, this goal definitely met the time-bound criteria. All 13 races had to be completed between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2013. Done and done.
I can’t remember another new years resolution that I’ve ever followed through on 100% in the past, but I’m proud to have completed the 13 in 2013 challenge. As I look forward to 2014, I’m certainly going to bear this example in mind with my goal setting for the year. Because let’s face it–why bother setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves that are going to leave us feeling like crap when we can’t succeed? Set a goal that is SMART for 2014, and maybe this time next year you’ll be sitting here thinking, “Wow, I actually lived up to my New Years Resolution last year.”