I have a lot of experience setting objectives and targets. I do it for a living and I pretty well know how to put together a target, commitment or goal that actually spurs people to change what they do.
It may surprise you, then, that I have made a dumb new year’s resolution. It’s dumb because it’s not SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Time-bound.
My resolution is: ‘To enjoy going to the gym’.
Since coming back to the UK, I’ve been to the gym twice. Both sessions have been good — I think I enjoyed them. Does that mean that I’m keeping my resolution?
Well, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to say because ‘to enjoy’ is pretty vague. What does it mean? I also don’t know how to measure it. Am I having more fun than I had last year? Should I enjoy myself more tomorrow? What level of enjoyment should I have (whatever ‘enjoyment’ means) within three months? What about by new year’s eve 2009? Is it really possible to enjoy going to the gym or are those gym junkies deluded?
Speaking of new year’s resolutions, I brought macadamia-centred chocolates back to the UK so that my workmates could have a taste of Australia. Would you be surprised if I told you that about a quarter of the people to whom I offered a chocolate declined because they were on some kind of new year’s resolution diet?
I was astonished. How can one resist chocolate-covered macadamias?
Back in September last year, having completed my one month chocolate ban, I reintroduced chocolate back into my diet. For a while, it was going well. I ate a bit of chocolate here and there. But then, my chocolate eating started to ramp up. One day, just as I was putting another piece of pointless-sweet-no-flavour chocolate in my mouth, I realisedthat I had reverted back to my former ways.
So I made a new resolution and that time it was a SMART resolution. I am only allowed to eat chocolate with greater than 70% cocoa content.
Specific? Yes. I know exactly what I am allowed to eat, and not allowed to eat.
Measurable? Yes. It’s a pass/fail criterion that applies 100% of the time, although I have made exceptions for spectacular chocolate cakes on three occasions.
Achievable? Yes. If coeliacs can avoid wheat products and vegans can avoid animal products, then resisting milk chocolate should be a piddle.
Realistic? Yes. It’s not like an indefinite ban on chocolate — clearly, I would fail that resolution. With this goal, I’m allowed to have the yummiest and best chocolate but avoid the incidental stuff (e.g. team mates bringing in cakes and sweets). It’s the incidental (accidental, non-deliberate, unplanned) chocolate eating that has increased since moving to London.
Time-bound? Yes. The resolution was applied immediately and lasts forever.