Kelly-Evans-Hullinger, M.D.

With 2022 nearly upon us, so too is the tradition of the New Year’s resolution. Merriam-Webster defines the New Year’s resolution as “a promise to do something differently in the new year.” I would argue that in practice, the resolution is less of a promise and more of a hope or intention.

My resolution for 2021 was to read 20 books by year’s end. I failed. I could blame my kids, work, other hobbies, but honestly I blame my phone! In my defense, I was in good company as a flopped resolver; less than half of New Year’s Resolutions are estimated to be successful.

An estimated 74 percent of adult Americans set a personal goal each year, the most common category being to improve health and wellness. If you are a regular at a gym or fitness center, you have witnessed the phenomenon of the January influx of attendees that typically trickles back down to baseline by March.

Whatever your resolution, there are some ways to increase your odds of being successful in following through in 2022. One tip is to make your goals follow the SMART mnemonic: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-sensitive. Let me elaborate, using my failed 2021 goal as an example.

Specific: “Read at least 20 books this year” is specific, but I could have done better. Had I explicitly listed each book title up front I would have avoided time wasted searching for books throughout the year.

Measurable: My goal was easily measurable; just count the books. If your goal is not measurable there is no way to know whether you are on track to reach it.

Attainable: I did not set a goal to read 50 or 100 books in a year. I know people who read that much, and I admire them, but that was not realistic for me. Setting an unattainable goal may set you up to quit in the early stages.

Relevant: I set this goal because I enjoy reading, and I know I am a happier person when I spend my downtime with my nose in a book. Choose a goal that you care about, and maintain enthusiasm.

Time-sensitive: Most New Year’s resolutions will have a time frame of one year. But setting smaller time-sensitive goals can be helpful. I ought to have made a sub-goal to read two books per month to keep on pace.

The New Year might be a great time to commit to a positive change in your life. I hope the SMART approach will help you (and me) succeed this year!

Kelly Evans-Hullinger, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices internal medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc® at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show celebrating its twentieth season of truthful, tested, and timely medical information, broadcast on SDPB and streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.

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