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Don’t make resolutions - set SMART goals.

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

At the beginning of every New Year, it’s normal practice to make resolutions and share with friends and family what we like to change or improve in our lives. That’s great! There’s nothing wrong that; however, after a few weeks we fail to deliver, stop, or forget our resolutions. Our good intentions are lost, and we end up feeling a deep sense of frustration.

It is human nature to want to stay in a constant balanced state. This is called homeostasis, which is the tendency to stay in a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes. Our body and mind work together to resist change as much as possible. This is the main reason why it is so difficult for some of us to make a change, break the circles, and overcome a block. It is part of our ancestral nature which has preserved us during the entire course of evolution.

According to Rosabeth Moss Kanter - Harvard Business School professor, specialized in strategy, innovation, and leadership for change - there are several reasons why people resist change. These could include loss of control, excess uncertainty, loss of face, more work, ripple effect, past resentments or concerns about competence.

In my opinion, change is difficult because it requires psychological and physical work. Sometimes it is easier to complain then make changes and stay still then try to disrupt an unpleasant situation. This makes us feel stuck in the mud and we repeat the same actions without understanding that it is not working. It should be obvious that something in our behavior and actions is evidently wrong and something needs to be done differently. However, it is not that simple because there are feelings, previous failures, fears and other factors involved in this equation.

It is almost like our primordial instinct of “fight or flight” has been broken or muted by our unconscious mind. This way, we stay in our vicious cycle, maintain the status quo and continue to complain about our life. This is physical response that happens when the amygdala, the part of the brain that initiates the automatic part of the fight or flight response, can't distinguish between a real threat and a perceived threat. Sometimes the perceived threat is so intense it triggers a "freeze" response.

The basic questions we should ask ourselves should be:

· What is the desired outcome of my life?

· What are the ideal scenarios for me?

· What is the best possible situation I would like to be in?

These questions shouldn’t be asked only at the beginning of the year but throughout the year. We should be rediscovering and listening to the inner child inside of us. The one that used to dream and think everything was possible. Dreaming of becoming an astronaut, a professional athlete, or a top model because we thought everything was possible and reachable. If we can imagine for a moment that we have won a billion-dollar lottery; money doesn’t matter and not part of the equation. In that scenario, what would really make us happy and feel truly accomplished?

I like to think of my own life like a story in progress, a beautiful novel with chapters and subchapters that talk about me, that is telling the world my story, my passions, my dreams, my goals. Every chapter is a new journey with several possible outcomes and this is the most exciting part: I am the novelist; I am the writer; I am the author of these chapters. I am the one that can change the characters and the situations. I am the artist who can chisel the marble block and transform it in everything he wants.

The starting point is to understand the real purpose we have in life. So ask yourself these questions:

· What is my vision?

· What is my purpose?

· Why am I here?

· What I want to be remembered for?

· What is my legacy?

Thoughts become things in life and if we can see them, we can achieve them. As Henry Ford once said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't-you're right.”

The next necessary step is our self-awareness. According to Raj Soin, from Wright State University: “Self-awareness means knowing your values, personality, needs, habits, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, etc. With a sense of who you are and a vision of the person you want to become, a plan for professional or personal development can be created. Moreover, self-awareness allows you to motivate yourself and manage your stress better, helps you with your intuitive decision making, and helps you to lead and motivate others more effectively. Self-awareness is very useful.”

Back to our traditional New Year resolutions: the reason that most of us fail is because we have no commitment, no mental and physical attachment to these empty promises, no dependability and accountability. We mainly lack a plan together with specific deadline to achieve them.

There are several reasons that we don't stick to our resolutions, for example we don't really believe we can do it, and we know the “what” but not the “why”. If we want to lose weight, for an instance, it should be supported by why we want to lose weight. Is it to look better, be healthier, to participate in a fitness competition, or just to improve our self-esteem? The whys are meant to motivate us, to give us a reason to do it and keep us going. However, as I said, the biggest reason resolutions fail is that in most cases we don't have a plan for success.

So here is the good news: setting and reaching goals is much easier if they are S.M.A.R.T. It is an acronym that means specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time sensitive. Setting a SMART goal instead of a resolution gives you the best opportunity to succeed.


Being specific helps us to articulate what we want to accomplish or achieve. Saying we want to earn a certain amount per month is much more specific than saying we just want to be rich. Deciding we want to lose 10 pounds is much more definite that saying we want to lose weight. The more specific we are, the bigger the chance we'll get what we want.


Our goals must be measurable. In other words, there is usually a number attached - dollars, days, times per week, weight. When we create a goal that is quantifiable, it's easy to determine when we're getting closer or if we've achieved our goal. Measurable goals offer a tangible evidence of our success.


Our goal should be attainable. If we don't have any influence on the outcome, then it is not a goal, it is only a dream or an empty resolution. For instance, saying we want to hit the jackpot is not a goal, but wanting to run a marathon is something we can work toward. We should know why we want to achieve our goal and it should be aligned with our values.

Our goals should prompt us to take action. To reach success, we need to make real changes and to break-down bigger goals into more achievable pieces.

Relevant - Realistic

Our goal should be significant and relevant to us. It should be aligned with our values. We need to decide if we are willing to commit the time, effort and financial investment to reach our goal.

Time Sensitive - Time Based

A goal without a deadline is just a dream. We should always specify when the result(s) can be achieved. Set a specific deadline to reach our goals and further define it into smaller action items with deadlines as well.

How I set my S.M.A.R.T. goals?

My technique is a simple 4 steps process:

1. I use a 6 months vision board narrowing it to only 3 personal and 3 professional goals- not resolutions. I give myself a specific deadline to achieve them.

2. After I create my vision board, I write a detailed letter to myself picturing that I have already achieved my goals. For Example in my case, I visualized myself living by the beach working from my Ocean view home and enjoying the sunrise and the sunset. I feel accomplished and fulfilled because I have not only achieved my personal goals but I have also helped many people reach their goals and change their lives.

3. Next I create a plan defining the specific tasks and activities that need to be completed. Then I set a deadline for each tasks. The following step is to organize them into monthly, weekly, and daily activities with measurable results.

For example my goal was to lose 15 pounds in 6 months, so I defined my specific tasks to be 4 workouts per week, reduce to approximately 2500 Calories per day, cut carbs and sugars and increase proteins, take specific supplements and vitamins. So then my measurable results were to lose approximately 2.5 pounds of fat per month, 0.6 lb. per week and only 0.09 lb. per day. This works in theory but in reality when unexpected situations come up we need to adapt our plan accordingly. In my case I lost much more weight at the beginning and less towards the end of the 6 months. I had to change the diet, exercise and supplement regiment several times to achieve my goal as planned. Keeping track of the progress kept me in line with my goals and motivated me. My plan was detailed enough to include a cheat day once a week where I could enjoy some pizza and my favorite dessert to reward myself.

4. The fourth and final step in the process is the “Declaration”. This is meant to announce to the world what we want and what are we going to achieve by a specific date. This will ultimately remind us of our goals and will make us accountable for our actions. My recommendation is to post the vision board (and eventually the letter if doesn’t contain personal details that we don’t want to disclose publicly) on social medias and tag people we care most about and our coach if we have one. This will have an incredible motivational effect and will simultaneously attract resources to accomplish our goals, it will create a powerful ripple effect that will impact not only our self but also others with our vision and generate new energy.

Time to set your SMART goals:

1. Set Specific, realistic, measurable goals

2. Create a 6 months Vision Board with personal and professional goals

3. Write a future letter to yourself as you have already achieved all of your goals

4. Declare your goals to the Universe

5. Visualize and make it happen

"We are what we do and not what we say we'll do!"

How I can support you?

In my journey to find my purpose, I realized that my vision is actually helping others find their vision. That’s why I am working as a coach and sharing with others my learnings, knowledge, and tools to achieve happiness, wealth, and freedom.

I feel blessed when I am helping someone to clarify their vision and find their purpose. I am available to anybody is interested in knowing more about personal development, self-improvement, and coaching.

Please contact me if you want to know more about this and other topics.

Antonio Pagano

Personal and Professional Coach | Motivational Keynote Speaker | Team building Expert

#805 570 2439

About the Author: Antonio is an Italian with American dual citizenship, living in Los Angeles, CA. He is a Personal and Professional Coach, Motivational Keynote Speaker and Team building Expert.

He is a licensed attorney in Italy, currently working as consultant for MLM Corporations. Antonio has almost fifteen years of combined academic, corporate expertise and sports marketing experience.

Antonio collaborated in the past with UCSB, University of Bologna, University of Bari and he teaches at the University of California Riverside. He is creator of two Management Training systems called Performanager and Rugby4Manager where he utilizes sports as a metaphor for team building, leadership and coaching. He published more than 50 marketing and sports management articles and the first book in the world about the marketing of Rugby “Oval Marketing”.

His education credentials include a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and a Law Degree. Trilingual in English, Italian and Spanish. Awarded with an O1 Visa for his extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, and athletics.

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