How to be SMART about Keeping Your Resolutions This Year

How to be SMART about Keeping Your Resolutions This Year

How to be SMART about Keeping Your Resolutions This Year

The start of a new year often feels like a great opportunity to change bad habits and establish new routines. While this practice can sometimes lead people to bite off more than they can chew, resolutions can also present great opportunities.

So, what can you do to make it more likely that you will keep your next resolution?

Make Your Health Goals S.M.A.R.T.

Setting SMART goals is a method used to help define and implement intentions. SMART goals are often used in healthcare settings, because they help to create increase a sense of ownership and personal importance when trying to make important changes. A SMART goal is one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.

The more well-defined that pathway becomes, the easier it is to follow. For example, the goal of simply wanting to lose weight or be healthier is too vague and does not incorporate the SMART criteria. But if you use the SMART criteria, a more clear objective might be aiming to walk for 30 minutes, five times per week, for a period of four weeks. It identifies clear, actionable steps and a scheduled end-point where non-judgmental evaluation can take place.

Putting your SMART goal in writing may help you remember the details.

S: Specific

  • Being specific helps to incorporate the method into the goal, not just the outcome.
  • Start by stating the objective you wish to meet as specifically as possible.
  • Approach goals tend to be more effective than avoidance goals. Try to set a goal for an action that you want to take rather than one you want to avoid. So, if you have a weight loss goal in mind, it may be more effective to break it into smaller mastery-based goals, such as making small dietary changes or increasing physical activity in specific and measurable ways.

M: Measurable

  • Adding measurable criteria to your goal will allow you to measure progress as you work towards achieving your goal.
  • Being able to count off the numbers as you progress will feel good, and measuring can help keep you from cheating.
  • Consider creative methods of tracking your progress. If you want to reduce stress, you might set a goal to take a short 10-minute meditation break each day.
  • Measuring results can help you adjust your goals as you work towards meeting your objectives.

A: Attainable

  • Break large goals into smaller goals and spell out the process required to achieve your objectives.
  • Don't set yourself up for failure by selecting unattainable goals. Goals should be ambitious but not impossible. Choose a goal that you are confident you can reach, but that will challenge you to follow through with smaller, more attainable actions required to achieve it.
  • Make sure that the process is also realistic so that you can achieve all of the individual steps that you need. If you don't have time, supplies, or the right location, make adjustments to your methods and goals.

R: Relevant

  • Each step of attaining the goal should make sense to you and have some level of personal importance or relevance.
  • Goals should be inspiring enough that it motivates you to succeed
  • If you don't care about the goal, you are unlikely to work on it.
  • If your doctor says, “lose weight," but you are not inspired by this statement, find another goal you care about to pursue. For example, it might be much more inspiring to say, "I want to have more energy to play with my children or grandchildren" in order to feel inspired to create smaller, process-based goals.
  • Your goal should be meaningful to you and set by you—not set by someone else.

T: Time Bound

  • When will you achieve your goal? You need to choose a time that is realistic but not too far off into the future.
  • Once you reach the endpoint, evaluate your process and set a new goal based on your progress and interests.


  • Accept that sometimes things happen and making adjustments to a goal is part of the learning process. Don't beat yourself up. Instead, evaluate your progress and your goals to see whether you missed a SMART criterion or step. Simply readjust your goals, and jump back in.
  • For sustainable lifestyle changes, feel free to set long-term goals to keep the big picture in mind. However, break down the long-term goal into a series of smaller short-term goals in order to track progress and keep yourself motivated.
  • Remember that someone else's goals are not your goals. Your goals have to be meaningful and attainable for you.
  • Share it with others. It's much more difficult to give up on your goals when others know about them. 

Most importantly, remember to be kind and flexible with yourself and to celebrate any and all progress along the way. It's not just the end goal that matters—it's the journey along the way. Remember, most of the time, a broken resolution simply means that it was the wrong resolution for you. For this reason, you should take some time to craft your resolutions, making sure they are attainable and easy to understand. And even if you still end up breaking them, just look at your broken resolutions as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.