As the holiday glitter begins to settle, many of us turn our thoughts to what a new year will bring. I myself find a new planner with nothing but blank pages waiting to be filled to be as exhilarating as the smell of coffee and hot doughnuts at Krispy Kreme! I love the possibility of what lies before me as a new year begins.

While I might be a Type A, overachiever, I am not a resolutions kind of girl. I think this probably stems from years of clinical practice and listening to the same resolutions year in and year out and rarely seeing these resolutions come to fruition.  As a mental health therapist and health educator, I truly believe that people have good intentions, they just need a better road map to reach these goals.

The actual definition of resolution is a FIRM decision to do or not do something. Maybe you already have a swirl of resolutions in your head. Some of the most popular ones include: losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking, improving money management, better job, higher education or learning to relax more.

When working with clients, I often use the SMART goals method. This acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based to help outline and create a more solid plan for meeting your goal. No matter what your resolution is this year, following the steps below will help increase the likelihood that you will achieve that goal.

  1. Specific

Begin by considering all the following Questions. The answers in italics reflects a weight loss goal.

What do I want to accomplish? Loose 20 pounds

Why is this goal important? I want to lower my risk of chronic health issues and feel more confident.

Who is involved? Myself and my family as I will be changing our cooking style and time away to work out.

Where is it located? Home, work, and gym

Which resources are required? Gym membership, healthy food expenses, tennis shoes etc.

When goals are too vague such as “I‘m going to loose weight or eat better” how will you know when you have met your goal and what does is really mean to “eat better”.

  1. Measurable

There needs to be some way to see how you are moving towards you goal. For example, if you are aiming to pay down debt, there needs to be a way to see that you are making progress. Consider the following questions.

How much? $$$ certain amount of dollars to this bill every month

How many? Focus on one bill until paid off

How will I know when it is accomplished? When account is paid in full and closed 

  1. Attainable

This is probably the step where most people set themselves up for failure. We are an instant gratification society, and this causes us to try to achieve goals either too quickly or that are not realistic.  If our goal is too restrictive or lofty, as soon as we see it out of reach, we will give up. It is better to set an achievable goal like lose 5 pounds and succeed than to set the goal too high and give up. This is true with financial goals as well. If you create a budge that is so tight you have no room for pleasure you will begin to resent the plan and drop it all together.

Our goals must also be realistic within the confines or our abilities and resources.  For example, if your goal is to become an engineer but you have struggled through every math class ever (yes…me!) then that goal might need to be revisited and realigned to your strengths. I mean at 45 years old, the likelihood the Rockettes are going to take me now are pretty slim, but I still have time for the Silver Sneakers kickline!

  1. Relevant

Even though we should consider our abilities and resources, I am never a person to dump water on someone’s fire. My Mom started her family very young, so when she met with an academic adviser in the 1980s about attending nursing school, she was married with two young children. She was told by the adviser she met with that it would be too difficult, and she should just go home and raise her family. So, you know what she did? She graduated from nursing school number one in her class! Here are some questions you should consider before chasing that dream that seems against all odds. In italics I’ll use my Mom’s goal as an example.

Does this seem worthwhile? Nursing has always been my career goal

Is this the right time? My kids are now school age and more independent

Does this match our other efforts/needs? Financially in the future this will put our family in a better situation

Am I the right person to reach this goal? I did well in my science and math courses in high school. I am determined.

Is it applicable in the current socio-economic environment? School will cost initially but the need for nurses is high

  1. Time Based

A big goal is met my setting many short- term goals that lead up to that big goal. Italics reflect your goal is to find a new job

What can I do today? Create a new resume

What can I do six weeks from now? Continue to search on job boards and apply

What can I do six months from now? Consider taking classes to increase my skills

When will I know it is accomplished?  New job is acquired

The number one killer of dreams is FEAR! I love this quote by Richard Wilkins, “Miracles start to happen when you give as much energy to your dreams as you do to your fears.” I recommend using a journal or a poster board to write out and follow your progress on your journey. For my crafty followers, you might enjoy decorating a vision board. Just don’t get lost in the crafting and loose sight of your actual goal!

Best of luck as you chase your dreams and passions in 2019! If your goals include reducing stress and learning to be more present in your life, please check out our JOY event on January 26, 2019.

As always, until 2019, may you be well, may you be loved, and may you know true peace.

Read more about Melissa C. Harrell and her work. Like Resiliency Counseling and Consulting, PLLC

The purpose of this blog is to offer educational information related to mental wellness. Resiliency Counseling & Consulting, PLLC and Melissa Harrell do not offer diagnosis or treatment through this medium. If you feel that you or a family member needs to access mental health services, first contact your primary care physician for assessment and direction in your area. If you need immediate help, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.