Health Watch/Copper Country Mental Health/Brian Rendel/Training and Prevention Counselor

According to motivational guru Jim Rohn, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.” He is correct, but trying to change is not the problem for most people. They are just doing it wrong.

The top ten New Year’s resolutions, according to a University of Scranton study, show that many people want to improve their personal wellness this time of year. People want to lose weight, stop smoking, or start exercising but researchers say 92 percent of New Year’s resolutions end in failure.

Family, community, education, employment and finances can affect our success. However, researchers discovered a powerful factor unrelated to a person’s circumstances. Goals that are well-defined and measurable, which they termed “explicit resolutions,” were ten times more predictive of success.

I can attest to the effectiveness of explicit goal-making based on my experience working with hundreds of people whose explicit goals helped them make big changes despite tough circumstances. Although explicit goal-making will not make change easy, it does make change more likely.

There are many ways to make goals explicit. One is to make them “SMART,” which means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. The SMART method works for any goal. For example, “I will lose some weight” is a vague goal likely to fail. To make it ten times more powerful we would make it SMART:

Specific Change the abstract phrase “some weight” to “healthy weight,” (as defined by your doctor) to make the goal objective. It is a clearer goal but not yet explicit.

Measurable Knowing distance to a goal allows you to gauge progress. If your doctor tells you 155 pounds is a healthy weight for you, then change “healthy weight” to “155 pounds,” to make the goal measurable.

Achievable People have a tendency to under-estimate the work involved to reach new goals. What can you do to test if your goal is achievable? Ask someone who knows you. If they remind you about your struggle to get your weight down to 175 pounds last year, you might change your goal from 155 to a more achievable 170 pounds. Reach 170, and make a new goal of 165, then 160, and so on.

Relevant Goals linked to a dream motivate us to keep moving forward. Losing weight is more relevant to a person whose dream is to look great in a bikini next summer, than for someone whose goal comes from doctor’s advice.

Timely Napoleon Hill defined a goal as “a dream with a deadline.” Without a deadline, most people procrastinate. Find some way every day to stay engaged with your goal. To weigh 170, you might decide to lose 1.5 pounds each week, and track calories and physical activity each day.

Connect your explicit and SMART goals to your dreams, and make 2014 a Happy New Year!

Ed. Note: Brian Rendel is a professional counselor specializing in training and prevention at the Copper Country Mental Health Institute in Houghton.