If Wishes Were Horses & How Do You Eat An Elephant?: A Menagerie of Metaphors On The Importance of Setting Social SMART Goals

It is the New Year, which is officially “Resolution Season.”  Case in point: January is by far the most popular month to join a fitness club, and your local gym will likely see up to a 50% uptick in utilization this month.  But do not worry – if you are reading this while you wait for an elliptical to open up, by mid February almost 80% of those who joined in January will be gone (source).

Why?  Because if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

Wishes are not resolutions, and even resolutions are not SMART Goals.  Wishes are things we want to happen.  “I wish I had a teleporter.”  Sure, life would be easier with a teleporter – then I wouldn’t even need a horse!  Sadly, sans genie, the laws of physics are seriously impeding the likelihood of my wish being fulfilled.

Resolutions are a good place to start.  Let’s take a common one: I Resolve To Lose 10 Pounds This Year. Resolve to achieve a goal (lose 10 pounds).  Set a benchmark (target weight = current weight minus 10 pounds).  Work toward it (Ugh).  Resolutions can also be intimidating, overwhelming, isolating, or simply too complex to achieve.

Consider trading in your New Year’s Resolutions for a SMART Goal.

SMART Goals are a way of re-framing your resolution into something that is: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic (or Relevant), and Time-Bound.  By breaking a resolution into its specific parts and pieces one can begin to evaluate each component of the SMART Goal, track progress, adjust course as necessary, and eventually achieve the goal.

Want to super-charge your SMART Goal?  Couple your SMART Goal with some type of social connection.  At minimum, share your goal, and have a loved one or co-workers help hold you accountable.  Even better: connect your actions to other people in a social manner.  We achieve more when we work with, and are connected to, others.  Don’t endeavor to lose 10 pounds.  Endeavor to join a spin class with a friend, attend 3 sessions every week, and meet at least one new person a week in the group for 2 months.  That is how to lose 10 pounds!

The Pleistocene’s greatest culinary achievement, BBQ’d mastodon, was not achieved by a lone hunter and a rock.  It was a group effort.  Find your tribe – they will help you achieve your SMART Goal.  And when you do bring down the mastodon, remember how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time (and with a lot of friends).  You can always get back together to work it off at your next spin class.

Happy New Year, Good luck, and Great Social SMART Goal Setting!

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Jake Weld, M. Ed. is the Director of Admissions and Business Development for Mansfield Hall, a college support program with locations in Madison, WI, and Burlington, VT.