Every year as I attend the National and various state conventions of the National Federation of the Blind I hear these words within each resolution that the organization considers. Around this time of year, I, like you, hear various discussions about those dreaded New Years resolutions. Dreaded because, as so many remind us, most resolutions will be made on one day with all the fervor and passion we have within us and, as soon as the new year begins, we shall fail to carry out a single one.
Why is that. Many pundits will tell us their own views on this question. Lots of them, many motivation experts, psychologists and others will even have correct answers as to why we do not follow through on our commitments. So yes, here I am with my observations which I hope will help and enlighten you a bit. I am sure much of what I will say may be familiar, but hopefully I will present my thoughts in a way that may stick with some of you more than what you have heard before. Besides, I have some challenges for you which I will present later.
I think the answer begins with a real incentive or lack of it. So, you make a resolution, but why should you carry it out? Where is the substantive motivation that would drive you to follow through? Most people have lofty goals like those I heard on New Years eve when Karen and I went to dinner at our local country club. We go there every year because we can walk to the club from our house and thus we don’t have to drive. After dinner a DJ set up ready to help us dance the night away, but first he went around the room and asked each person to tell their resolutions. I heard the usual things like “I am going to have a better life”, “I am going to lose weight”, “I’m going to make more friends” and my favorite “I am going to make 2020 better than 2019”. No way any of these resolutions will last. Do you know why?
To answer, let’s go back to the National Federation of the blind convention resolutions. If one were to examine EVERY resolution put forth you would see several common threads. First each resolution outlines issues needing addressing. Next when the resolve portion is stated each “now there be it resolved or further resolved” states a specific tangible thing to be resolved. Then, sometimes after discussion, each resolution is adopted or not. If a resolution passes it becomes an absolute part of the organization’s policy. The adopted resolutions are part of the organization’s goals for the next year and possibly beyond. The organization, by passing a resolution, makes it clear to its members and the world exactly its policies and what it plans to do. The president, board of directors of the organization and membership, by seeing a resolution pass are bound to carry out the terms and goals of the resolution or they may well soon find themselves voted out of office or without an organization at all. Lots of incentive to fulfill the goals and requirements of the adopted resolutions.
People do not usually make specific resolutions. “A better life”? What does that mean? “Lose weight” or “make more friends”? What do those resolutions mean and where in the resolutions is the infrastructure to help the maker carry out the “commitments”? The answer is that none exists.
Successfully fulfilled resolutions are successful because they are SMART. Here SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and tangible or timely. Let’s look at the “I’m going to lose weight this year” resolution and see how to make it SMART. At present this resolution is not SMART in any way except possibly tangible should the individual lose a bunch of weight that will be obvious. However, not really tangible as you will see.
- SPECIFIC. Before getting into specificity why make the resolution at all? Is the person fat? Does the person want to fit into specific clothing? Has the person been told they need to lose weight and really believes it? If the individual wants to lose weight they need to make some decisions. How much weight do they want to lose? Over what period of time do they want to lose the weight? Why lose weight at all? So, with all this in mind let’s say the person wants to lose 50 pounds and firmly resolves to do so.
- MEASURABLE. In our case this one is easy. All one needs is a scale. Of course, part of the commitment must be to use the scale to see how much progress has been made toward fulfilling the resolution.
- ATTAINABLE. If the resolution maker wants to lose 50 pounds in a month I would dare to say that such is not attainable. The body can’t take the stress. If the goal is to lose 25 pounds a month again, probably not in two months either. How about losing 50 pounds in six months? Possibly, but even so for the average person I would say this would be a stretch. Some people might have the discipline and physical makeup to lose 50 pounds in six months. If one can take off 50 pounds in six months, GREAT JOB.
- REALISTIC. This correctly follows on the heals of TANGIBLE. First, how realistic is it to lose 50 pounds in a year. Yes, for most people. How realistic to do this in one month? As we discussed above, not for most or all of us. In thinking about a resolution, adopting the resolution and realistic goals along the way is a good idea. “I want to lose on average at least five pounds a month” is probably attainable and quite realistic. Making sure you are realistic about what you can do is important.
- TANGIBLE. We already discussed this a bit. Even with small goals along the way tangible or timely results can or should be seen and recognized. In our weight loss discussion, it may not be possible to look in the mirror and see that you lost five pounds, but your scale will tell you what results you have received. Make sure you have a plan to see those tangible results. Having specific timely goals are important. Five pounds a month with a goal of losing 50 pounds in a year is quite tangible and timely.
Even if you adopt the SMART method of creating a resolution or goal, New Years or otherwise, be sure you give thought to and develop a way to help keep you incented to follow through. Perhaps you can tell a friend or relative of your plan and ask them to keep working with you to get updates to help you keep on track. Most people tend not to be disciplined enough to meet tough goals, but if others are involved we can usually do better.
OK! Now, having said all the above I have made two resolutions. One I mentioned at our New Years party and one I have not yet discussed. I am going to tell you about both and I am giving you permission to hold me accountable for fulfilling them. Isn’t that what team mates do?
- NEW BOOK. I will write a new book this year. Already I developed a draft proposal and shared it with my agent, Chip MacGregor. He gave me many good suggestions which will probably take the book development is a different way than I originally planned. Hey, I said involving others is helpful. I plan to write about what has happened to Karen and me since September 11, 2001. Several of you have asked me to write these stories down and so I commit to doing so. If you have stories or ideas you want to contribute from our times together or if you have questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I won’t guarantee that I will update you in every newsletter, but you are welcome to ping me to check on progress.
- NEWSLETTERS. I have not been consistent about writing newsletters. These documents are a good way for me to keep in touch with you and they will help me share with you ideas and issues I feel important and relevant. I plan to create ONE NEWSLETTER A MONTH. You are welcome to send along ideas and thoughts and, in fact, I encourage this. I want these newsletters to be something you want to read.
Both resolutions are SMART by all standards. I look forward to reporting progress. In addition, as you have seen in this and other articles this month, I am asking for your input. This is because your comments, thoughts and suggestions are not only welcome, but they will help keep me on track. Also, your ideas will help me create the most relevant successes I can.
It’s not too late to make your own SMART goals and resolutions. Have at it and feel free to pass along your own thoughts and successes. Let’s move into 2020 and all achieve SMART successes together.