It's that time of year again when we all try to start something new - or stop doing something that we don't want to do. For example, many people try to lose weight by eating healthy food. Other people try to stop smoking or drinking. But how do you make sure you can continue what you start in January for the rest of the year? That's easy, you should make 'SMART' resolutions! Okay, so what is a SMART resolution? Let's find out:
But what do these mean?
If you say "I'm going to study English more," it's not clear what more means. A better thing to say is, "I'm going to study English every day for 15 minutes." The important thing is that any goal you set for yourself should be very clear and easy to understand.
Moving away from learning English, a common resolution is to lose weight. It's much better to say "I'm going to lose 5kgs." than "I'm going to lose weight." A good resolution about English would be "I'm going to improve my TOEIC score by 50 points." A goal must be measurable in some way, for example by exam scores, kilograms, centimeters, money, marathon finish times, etc.
If I (Greg, by the way!) decide that I want to become a world champion body builder by the time I'm 45, that's clearly impossible. A good goal is one that is difficult but possible to achieve. A sensible goal for an English test could be to improve your TOEIC or TOEFL score by 10% or 20%. Goals that are too easy or too difficult aren't good at motivating us to work hard, but goals that we feel are possible to achieve can do amazing things for our motivation.
Realistic (often Relevant)
Is the goal important or useful for your life? As an English teacher, father and amateur athlete, my learning is usually focussed around those areas. Studying teaching methods, parenting skills and sports science is relevant for me and therefore realistic. Although nothing should ever stop you from wanting to learn new things, we are more likely to achieve our goals if those goals are truly relevant, realistic and important to us.
Let's go back to probably the most common goal at this time of the year: losing weight. Consider the two following resolutions:
We all know that reading is one of the best ways to learn a language, but reading a book in your non-native language can be very difficult. But if you make a resolution to read one chapter of an English book every week, it doesn't seem that difficult or scary any more.
So we've seen how being SMART can really help you when planning how to achieve your goals. Hopefully it helps you when planning your resolutions this year! It is often said that 80% of resolutions have already failed by the end of February, but by being SMART you can help make sure that you're in the 20% of people who get exactly what they want this year. Good luck!