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A Dilbert Resolution

In last week’s article, Habit Gravity & Escape Velocity, I told you about a New Year’s resolution I imposed upon one of my teenage daughters last year.  The resolution was for her to make her bed every morning immediately after waking up.  In the article, I provided one of the primary reasons most people don’t keep their resolutions – they fail to develop the new habits that are necessary to follow through on the resolutions.  I also provided a formula that can be used to help facilitate the development of new habits.

Before a determination can be made as to what new habits need to be developed, a resolution must first be modified to a SMART Goal.  I learned about SMART Goals a few years ago when I worked with Vince Zirpoli, a management consultant who lives in the state of Maryland.

Vince is a devout Catholic who is an expert at employee management.  At the time I consulted with him (over the telephone), he was 78 years old.  Some of the businesses he’s worked with in the past include Baltimore Life Insurance Co., Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Maryland, The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, The Department of Defense, First National Bank of America, John Hopkins University, Maryland Department of Budget & Management, and Terminix International.

Vince taught me that the only way a person can ever consistently achieve measurable progress at anything (including the management of employees), is if the person continually develops SMART Goals.  SMART is an acronym for: (1) Specific; (2) Measurable; (3) Attainable; (4) Relevant; and (5) Time Bound.

Some of the most common New Year’s resolutions are:

• “I’m going to lose thirty pounds this year.”

• “I’m going to pay off all of my credit cards this year.”

• “I’m going to spend more time with my spouse (parents, children, etc.) this year.”

While these may all be worthy resolutions (goals), since they don’t meet the SMART Goal guidelines, there is no way to determine what new habits will be needed to develop and follow through on the resolutions.  As an example, if we use the SMART Goal guidelines for the weight loss resolution, we would modify the resolution as follows:

I’m going to lose thirty pounds by August 1, 2012, by doing the following:

1. On January 2, 2012, after I wake up and go to the bathroom, I’m going to: (a) weigh myself and write down my weight on a calendar; (b) measure my body fat with a caliper and record the results on my calendar; and (c) measure my chest, waist, hips and thighs with a tape measure and record the measurements on my calendar.  On each Monday morning thereafter, I’m going to go through the same routine and record the measurements on my calendar (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time Bound).

2. During the first week of January, I’m going to sign up for Weight Watchers (or any other proven weight loss system that requires the measurement of the portions of food consumed).  I’m going to convince a friend or family member to sign up with me as a partner.  My partner and I will attend weekly meetings together and encourage and support each other every day (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific, Measurable, Relevant, and Time Bound).

3. I’m going to walk at a fast pace on the treadmill for thirty minutes every morning after I weigh myself and before I eat breakfast (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific, Measurable, and Time Bound).

4. I’m going to lose at least one pound each week.  If there is any week in which I reduce my weight by less than one pound, I will reduce the amount of “points” I consume during the following week and increase my exercise time from thirty minutes to forty-five minutes each day (SMART Goal guidelines: Specific and Measurable).

5. Because I will be losing one pound each week, I will be able to meet my goal of losing thirty pounds by August 1, 2012 (SMART Goal guidelines: Attainable and Time Bound).

Since the weight loss resolution meets the SMART Goal guidelines, we can determine what new habits need to be developed to reach the goal.  There are five new habits that will need to be developed: (1) standing on the scale every morning and recording the results; (2) measuring body size and body fat every Monday morning and recording the results; (3) attending weekly Weight Watchers’ meetings and learning and following the Weight Watchers’ point system; (4) matching up with a partner by telephone every day to discuss problems, challenges, progress, and results; and (5) exercising for thirty minutes every morning prior to eating breakfast.

We could go through the same process to develop the SMART Goal guidelines and habits for the other two resolutions I mentioned above (paying off credit cards and spending more time with family members), but I’m sure you get the point.

Take a quick look at the one sentence resolution I imposed on my daughter last year: “Your New Year’s resolution is to make your bed every morning immediately after waking up.” How did the resolution measure up to the SMART Goal guidelines?  It was Specific.  She knew exactly what she was supposed to do after getting out of bed.  It was Measurable.  Anyone could see the result after she finished making her bed.  It was an easily Attainable task requiring less than three minutes of her time every morning to complete.  It was Relevant, because her mother wanted her to make her bed every morning and she had a duty to honor her mother’s wishes.  It was Time Bound.  The time that was scheduled to perform the task was immediately after waking up in the morning.

So now you know why 95% of the people who make New Year’s resolutions never get close to achieving them.  They behave like Dilbert, the comic strip character.  Instead of turning their resolutions into SMART Goals, they continue to exist in a world that is governed by vague generalities.  If they’re taught how to develop and achieve goals, they end up being too slothful and lazy to sit down and use their God-given intelligence to map out exactly what needs to be done to accomplish their goals.  They blame everyone but themselves for their frustration and lack of progress.

If a person is unwilling to establish and follow through on new personal development goals, such as health, family, or financial related goals, how can that same person be expected to establish the goals (and develop the habits) that are necessary to reach the level of holiness that is required to gain entrance into heaven?

Are you willing to come up with one new spiritual SMART Goal (and develop the habits necessary to achieve it) that will help you reach perfection and sainthood?  The goal could be a new daily prayer ritual, a work of mercy to be performed every week, or a focused daily effort to perfect a virtue.  If you’re not willing to commit to just one new spiritual SMART Goal for 2012, how can you ever expect to be admitted into the Kingdom of God?  This may be the last year of your life on earth, so you may want to seriously consider sitting down right now to write out your new spiritual SMART Goal.

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