If you took the time to review your life last week, you’ll likely have at least one area of your life that you’d like to make some changes. So let’s set some goals. Common New Year’s resolutions include:
- Exercise more
- Save money
- Eat healthy
- Get organized (Call us if you’re having trouble with this one!)
- Get more sleep
- Quit social media
- Reduce waste
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Reduce stress
- Keep a journal
What are your resolutions this year? Write them down and refer to them often; you’ll be more likely to achieve them.
Tackling too much
Now you have a list of goals. How do you make them all happen? I used to make BIG New Year’s resolutions. When I wanted to start running every day, on January 1st I laced up my shoes and hit the pavement. January 2nd I did it again, because that’s what I resolved to do!
By February, my resolution (and my running shoes) were gathering dust. What went wrong? If you want to start running every day, you should just run every day…right?
If you’re shaking your head and saying, “You’ll burn out!” you’re correct.
I didn’t make progress until I paid attention to the process rather than the end goal. Instead of making major changes immediately, I broke the process of creating goals down into the SMART PATH system. You’ve likely heard of SMART goals and adding the PATH to achieving them has made them so much easier to complete.
SMART PATH goals are…
Specific, so you know exactly what your goal is.
Measurable, so you know when you’ve achieved it.
Achievable, so you can achieve it instead of feeling disappointed.
Results based, so you know what you’re getting out of accomplishing your goal.
Time based, so you know when you’re going to celebrate your achievement!
Process oriented—focused on the process of making the goal happen.
Action based—what specific actions would you need to take to make the goal happen?
Template focused—which actions will you need to repeat and gain mastery over to achieve the goal?
Habit-cultivating—how can you make this part of your routine? How often do the actions need to take place for the result to be realized? How do I make these actions repeatable, so my brain doesn’t have to decide to do it every time?
Here’s how I would set up a SMART PATH goal to organize my home next year.
Specific: I want a fully organized home by the end of 2022.
Measurable: My home will be organized when everything in it has a home.
Achievable: How much time can I spend organizing around my work schedule? How much clutter do I have? If organizing my whole home isn’t achievable in 2022, I can narrow down my goal to specific rooms.
Results based: For each room, I’ll write down what it means to be fully organized. For instance, I’ll know my garage is organized when everything is on the shelves or in the cabinets in labeled containers AND I can park my car in it again.
Time based: I will spend one year organizing my home.
Process oriented: I can’t organize my whole house in one day! Each month I’ll pick a different room to focus on and dedicate a specific time each week to organizing it. I will set an intention each time I organize and visualize myself fulfilling it.
Action based: I will put a “clutter bucket” in my garage to collect items to donate.
Template focused: Ask myself “Do I need or love it?” and only keep the things I say yes to.
Habit-cultivating: Every time the mail comes in, I will sort it and put any junk mail straight in the recycling. Every time I come in the door, I will put away the things I took with me. I will review my calendar daily.
Why do I put so much emphasis on processes and habits? Did you know that repeating activities literally changes your brain? Myelin, the insulation layer around your nerves, physically builds up the more you do an activity. Each time you repeat an activity, your brain gets a little better at doing it. That means that the more times you hang your keys by the door, the more likely you are to keep hanging your keys there. It also means that every time you leave your clothes on the floor after you change, the more ingrained that habit becomes.
You can use this information to physically train your brain into better habits! When you hang your keys by the door, give yourself a pat on the back and know that you just changed your brain for the better.
The smallest achievable step
Once you have your SMART goal resolution, start with the smallest achievable step. If you want to start in your kitchen, maybe your smallest achievable step is organizing your pantry. Maybe it’s one shelf on your pantry!
Break the goal down until the first step is easy to do, then do it. That way, you start the process with a win! Success fuels success, and if you stick with it, organizing will become part of your routine.
That’s interesting about the myelin. Makes sense because it does definitely get easier to perform a task when I do it over and over again!
I’m familiar with SMART goals, but I never heard about the addition of PATH. I especially love the part about process and habit-formation. Knowing what your goal is but being fully engaged in the process helps to form habits. Those with consistency and perhaps some accountability help can make all the difference.
Thanks for summing it up so nicely, Linda!
My favorite part was how you connected the neurobiology to the process. Just like wearing a path through fields over decades and centuries eventually leads to paved roads and then highways, that myelination really works it’s magic!
That’s a great metaphor, Julie! You’ve always got a good turn of phrase.
Golly! I love the PATH! I, like the others know about SMART goals but did not know about PATH. It makes perfect sense. This is an eye-opening, simple strategy to help nayone work towards conquering their goals.
Thanks, Diane! I’m glad this post resonated with you : )