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SMART Goal Setting for the New Year

As we turn the corner into another year, our best intentions come with us. We make plans to improve our health, relationships, work life, and many other areas that are meaningful or challenging for us. For a rare few, these goals have a lasting impact. For others, they are swiftly forgotten.

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions has humbler roots than many of our goals have today. According to Time Magazine, it began in ancient Babylon, with promises made to the gods. The Babylonians took a down-to-earth approach; their promises included such manageable goals as returning things they had borrowed.

We can learn a thing or two from the Babylonians in setting yearly goals for ourselves that have staying power. A philosophy that aligned with their simple, doable promises was articulated by George T. Doran in 1981. Writing to managers, he described a system of goal setting that follows the acronym SMART. There are a few variations on the words associated with SMART. One version we like stands for:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Time-bound

When we set goals that follow the five SMART principles, we’re more likely to achieve them. We build in accountability for ourselves and ensure that we don’t bite off more than we can chew. Rather than thinking big for your New Year’s resolutions, try using SMART principles that will work with your Enneagram type to help you achieve your goals.

Specific: Instead of committing to an overarching idea such as “getting in shape,” commit to a concrete practice that will move you toward your intentions, such as running three times a week.
While specificity is important for anyone who wants to set achievable goals, it’s especially useful for types Four and Nine to consider. Fours often daydream of lofty achievements; getting clear on the steps they want to take will bring these closer to reality. For Nines, hazy, generalized goals can lead to inaction, so focusing on the specifics will bring momentum.

Measurable: Find ways to measure progress toward your goals quantitatively. Continuing with the example of running, you could aim to get your mile down to under ten minutes, and time yourself with each practice. This step is particularly important for type Eight, as Eights tend to pour a lot of energy into their pursuits, sometimes tiring themselves out or quitting. Creating measurable goals will keep actions strategic.

Attainable: Choose a goal that is under your control. Something like getting a book published depends on external circumstances, but submitting your manuscript to a set number of publishers is something you can accomplish on your own. Consider this especially if you are type Three or Six. Threes often focus on outside validation, and benefit from the inner-directed approach of attainability. Sixes often place control within others’ hands, and focusing on attainability brings the ball into their court.

Realistic: Consider how your goal, which should be fairly concrete by now, will fit in with the rest of your life. Do you have the ability, resources, money, and time to achieve what you’re hoping to do? Are there aspects you need to reevaluate to make the goal doable? Realism is an important consideration for types One and Seven. For Ones, it will minimize perfectionistic expectations and ease pressure. For Sevens, it will focus energy on priorities and lessen overextension.

Time-bound: Set yourself a deadline, for the final goal as well as for any milestones toward it. This practice is valuable for all of us, and wonderful for types Two and Five. Twos frequently prioritize others and can get sidetracked, so keeping to a schedule provides useful structure for tending to their own desires. Fives tend to spend a lot of time on planning, so having a deadline will ensure their goals materialize in action.

We encourage you to use all five SMART principles as you create and pursue your New Year’s resolutions, with a special emphasis on the dominant one for your type. With these practices in mind, you’ll see better results in meeting the goals that matter to you.