COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Let's take a moment to fast-forward to Feb. 1, 2018. Imagine how you'll feel realizing you spent money on a gym membership, only to go twice in the first week of January and you haven't been since.
Your New Year's resolution was to "get fit." The odds are against you if you are making a lofty or vague New Year's resolution. According to a report in U.S. News, by the second week of February, some 80 percent of resolutions are dead in the water, leaving the "resolution-ers" with a whole lot of regret.
What is the sticking point? Why can't Americans seem to live up to their goals? According to Professor Delia West with the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health, it's because many people don't set "SMART" goals.
SMART is an acronym for "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Real-Time, and Time-Limited." If your goal has all of those markers, you're much more likely to achieve your goals.
Specific: To lose weight, she says, is a good goal. But, she cautions, what do you mean? Do you have a specific number you'd like to see yourself shed?
Measurable: Can you put it in numbers? Weight, she says, is a measurable goal. Time is also measurable.
"People talk about getting physically active," West said. "What does that mean? I'm going to walk 20 mins more a week? 20 mins a day? What is your measurable goal?"
Achievable: Is it a reasonable and achievable goal? Do you have short-term markers?
"People want to think big, they have long term goals that are big goals. There's a danger of having an over-ambitious goal. Because if you don't get there, you get discouraged. You want to make sure you have short-term and long-term goals to stay motivated."
Real-time: The goal is something that you have control over. West says whether it's packing your lunch three days a week vs. eating out every day, having a change that you can specifically control is incredibly important in sticking to your resolution.
"I'm going to start walking on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays," West said. "The more specific and in your control it can be, the better the goal is."
Time-Limited: Can you look back on your progress and re-evaluate? A key to sticking to your goal is being able to adjust and fine-tune them.
"That's not a failure, that's part of the process," West said. "So you want to set a time limit for yourself. It's like I'm going to re-evaluate how this is going in two weeks. I'm going to give myself two weeks to see if I'm achieving and moving in the short term goal direction that I was hoping I was going to move and if not I'm going to fine tune which of the pieces aren't working well so that I can continue the long-term goal."
West said especially for lifestyle goals – like weight management and exercise – the short-term goals are the building blocks. She says you have to have attainable short-term goals to eventually achieve the long term goals, and that's generally where people make the mistake. They make the resolution the long term goal without the building blocks of the short term goals to actually achieve it.
The most common goals, according to data pulled from Google by iQuanti, are usually the most popular searches for New Year's Resolutions. These are the most popular from last year:
- Get Healthy: 62,776,640 searches, a 13.77 percent increase over last year during the same time period, when it was searched 55,177,290 times.
- Get Organized: 33,230,420 searches, dipping by 7.41 percent compared to last year’s tally of 35,888,700.
- Live Life to the Fullest: 18,970,210, spiking by 13.04 percent from last year, when it maxed at 16,782,030.
- Learn New Hobbies: 17,438,670 searches, up 4.72 percent from last year’s total searches of 16,652,950.
- Spend Less/Save More: 15,905,290 searches, up 17.47 percent from 13,539,500 in 2016.
- Travel: 5,964,130 searches, down by 0.82 percent from 2015’s 6,013,550,
- Read More: 4,746,560 searches, down 5.63 percent from last year’s 5,029,790.
The likelihood is many people will make the same resolutions over and over. Here are some resources, apps and gadgets to help you stick to your New Year's Resolution this time around.