Wisdom of the Saints for Our Modern Lives

"Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God."  

Saint Ignatius of Loyola



About the Author

BJ Gonzalvo is an organizational psychologist living in Seattle, WA and author of the book Leadership Lessons From the Saints.

Get S.M.A.R.T.E.R. for the New Year

by BJ Gonzalvo, PhD

Another new year, another resolution?  I don't think many of us intend to wait for the new year to set our resolutions. We get that opportunity year round so why wait for a new year. However, the new year is a great starting point to change or to start something new. It's in the air and everyone else seems to be doing it. So why not go with the flow and use that as an opportunity. It might work.
And coming from the business world, here’s an idea that we can use to make our new year's resolution work this time or at least make it a little more successful than your previous new year resolutions.  It’s an approach that is used quite effectively in the business world so why not use it in other non-business situations, including your personal new year resolutions.  

The first step to your New Year's Resolution is to clearly define the goal and also the purpose.  It takes a little bit of work but that just shows that you are serious about this resolution and that you are going about it the "SMARTER" way this year. Put it in writing if that helps.

So let's borrow this mnemonic acronym from the business world and let's apply it to our personal resolution. I'm sure many of you have heard this--it's S.M.A.R.T.





Time-bound; and take time to:



So instead of saying your goal is to exercise more, perhaps you can be more Specific and say that your goal is to exercise 5x a week.  It becomes a goal that is specific and measurable.  Statements like "exercise more" is very vague and just doesn't sound very serious. I hear a lot of people stating that their "goal is to lose weight." Let's specify that goal and make it measurable. We can re-state that to: "Lose 5 lbs by January 31st." Setting a quantifiable goal allows you to Measure your progress.  Set some Attainable milestones that can serve as bite-sized low-hanging fruit kind of goals.  One big goal can get overwhelming and can thus derail you or demotivate you.  So in addition to the one big goal, set weekly milestones.  It makes it more Realistic, tangible, and measurable.  Seeing that you’re reaching the little milestones and your little goals that you’ve set  frequently can bring such a rewarding feeling.  And that’s just it, these little rewards or results are like carrots on a stick that can help you keep going and focused with your eyes constantly on the prize.  It works for people training for marathons.  With their main big goal of running a marathon this year, they break that goal up into chunks and set their goals to run one extra mile per week. And in the example of losing 5 lbs by January 31st, you're setting it up to be Time-bound. Giving yourself a timeline solidifies your goal and helps you stay on track.

Measuring and tracking your progress can drive your behavior and actions toward a very realistic and very attainable goal.  Analyze and evaluate the results.  Being able to see the numbers (e.g., the speed, the distance, the number of times per week) gives you results that you can use to keep yourself on track, motivate you some more, or identify areas that you can improve on.    

Set a plan to evaluate your progress.  Take time to Evaluate and Re-evaluate.  Not only will it tell you whether you’re progressing toward your goal or not but this will help you keep going and motivated for the longer haul.  It keeps you engaged in the process and in your progress.  It also allows you to make course corrections.  If you hit a plateau, just look at your progress and see where you can re-adjust your goals.  

This may sound very businessy but it is a widely-used approach and it has worked successfully for many project managers.  It’s a nice framework that offers a strategic approach to keeping your personal new year resolutions invigorated throughout the year. The efforts are extra efforts but that shows that we are committing to our goal--and that this goal might just work.

Now, imagine using this approach to our prayer life. The scenario above can also be a scenario for our prayer life. Just change "exercise" to "prayer." I know my prayer life can use a boost. I can definitely get SMARTER with my prayer life.

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