As we ring in 2015 many people are going to start their New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions. Some will want to get in better shape and others will want to commit to a project they’ve been putting off. Whatever the reason, the start of a fresh year seems like the perfect time to challenge yourself with new goals.

Most popular New Year’s resolutions

According to the U.S. government these are the most popular New Year’s resolutions:

  • Lose weight: Who doesn’t want to shed a few extra pounds at the beginning of the year? This may be the number one resolution, but often the most quickly abandoned. Losing weight shouldn’t be viewed as a fad diet situation but rather a long-term change in overall lifestyle.
  • Volunteer to help others: Giving back to the community is a noble goal but it doesn’t have to be a chore or challenge. Volunteering can be done at any level so try not to get too frustrated that you’re not doing enough or doing it wrong. Start slow by saving non-perishable goods and donating them once a month to your local food bank.
  • Quit smoking: One of the most difficult resolutions is to quit smoking. This isn’t because you’re weak and unable to stick with something it’s because the biological effects of a smoking addiction can be hard to overcome. Don’t be afraid to get help. Work with someone who is trained in smoking cessation techniques.
  • Get a better education: You don’t have to enroll in an expensive university to give yourself an opportunity to learn more. In today’s hyper-connected world you can take inexpensive online courses, read more books, and participate in discussions with people all over the world so you can broaden your knowledge base.
  • Get a better job: Did you know that twice as many working adults are unhappy in their jobs compared to those who are happy. Out of every three people, two are likely to be miserable with their employment. That is a horrifying statistic considering how workplace stress can cause long-term physical problems. Many of these workers feel trapped and unable to make a change. This resolution could be crucial for them.
  • Save money: Though tied with employment and housing, saving money is a learned discipline. Use online tools and mobile applications to change your relationship with money. Track all your expenses as well as the money coming in from income or other sources.
  • Get fit: This often goes hand in hand with the first resolution to lose weight. In January, gyms all over the country see a spike in memberships and attendance is up for this first month of the year. But just like a diet, exercise is not an overnight fix. It requires dedication and a complete change in mindset.
  • Eat healthy food: This is a much better resolution than a simple diet. Eating fewer calories is a good start but for a real change to your overall health it is important to embrace the right healthy foods for your body type and specific needs.
  • Manage stress: Much like the issue with jobs, dealing with stress could be the number one most important challenge anyone can take on. Stress causes high blood pressure, heart disease, and even stroke. If it isn’t managed, the damage can be permanent. Take up a meditation practice or yoga to help.
  • Take a trip: As it turns out, traveling can be one of the easiest resolutions to keep. You don’t have to head somewhere exotic or expensive. Travel to see friends or family in a nearby state. Keep it on a budget by planning the experience to the penny and using discount resources. There is nothing like travel to give you a fresh perspective and new experience.
  • Reduce, reuse, and recycle: Starting small in your own home can give you an opportunity to help the environment in a small way. While you may not be able to single handedly change the effects of global warming you can be confident that you are doing what you can.

How to make SMART goals for yourself

Used by successful entrepreneurs, business people, and creative types, the SMART method of achieving goals is a proven strategy for success. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. By using these criteria, you can establish a plan of action to achieve your goals in 2015. So get ready to tackle your New Year resolutions head on.

Let’s break down each step:

  1. Specific: In order to stick with a goal it needs to be well defined. “Lose weight” is a troubling resolution because it doesn’t give you any parameters. “Lose 20 pounds by summer” may not only be more effective but also more attainable.
  2. Measurable: To track your progress, you have to have something to measure. Let’s stick with the weight example. Once a week, step on the scale and record your progress. Keep it in a spreadsheet or use an online tool such as Weight Watchers to help keep it organized.
  3. Attainable: Maybe you’re concerned that your weight has ballooned over the last few years and you could really stand to lose 50 pounds. However, if you try to tackle all 50 at once you will likely lose momentum. Instead, break it down into ten pound increments.
  4. Relevant: You won’t do something that you’re not actually interested in doing. For example, if you hate going to the gym you aren’t going go even if you buy a membership and have the best of intentions. Instead, pick an interest that is relevant to you.
  5. Time based: Setting a deadline helps you keep your goals in perspective. It gives you an achievement to work toward. If your goal is to lose weight simply losing weight won’t feel like an accomplishment if there isn’t a time frame established.

Now that you’re armed to make smart New Year resolution decisions, what do you want to do in 2015?

Image by jeff_golden via Flickr

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