How SMART Goals Can Help You Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions

Setting SMART and realistic goals can help you achieve your New Year’s Resolutions this year. Here’s how to make them work for you…

Sometimes it’s fun to set huge and potentially unachievable goals. Large, seemingly unrealistic, goals can make you feel empowered and excited – Let’s be honest, it’s much more fun to say, “I’m going to run a marathon this year,” than, “I’m going to run every day this year.” 

But, at the same time, if you genuinely want to make positive changes in your life, the best way to make your New Year’s Resolutions stick is to set realistic goals. A realistic goal is a goal that you can manage. Let’s examine the steps required to set realistic and achievable resolutions and then take a look at how you can make them exciting and feel motivated and empowered to succeed.

SMART Goals are Realistic Goals

You may be familiar with the SMART goal concept. It’s a system that approaches goal or resolution setting in a strategic manner. It may not sound like much fun in the beginning, but rest assured, it’s the best and most effective way to approach any goal or life change.

S = Simple/Specific

Start with simple goals that are designed to achieve one specific thing. Overwhelming and complicated goals are often left behind when they become too difficult to plan for and implement. Simple goals can be accomplished one step at a time. They’re easier to plan for, easier to adopt into your lifestyle, and easier to achieve.

A few examples…

Complicated goal –to start running
Simple/Specific goal – to run for ten minutes every single day

Complicated goal – to eat more healthily
Simple/Specific goal – to eliminate one harmful food from my diet each month

Complicated goal – to lose weight
Simple/Specific goal – to lose one pound a week for the next twelve months

See how the complicated goals are overwhelming and undefined? And the simple goals are specific and manageable? You’ll accomplish more with less stress and frustration when you focus on a simple goal that has a specific result in mind.


How do you know when you’ve achieved success? This step in the realistic resolution process helps you set goals that are exciting, yet at the same time, very achievable.

Let’s take a look at the goals used in the previous step:

to start running.
to run for ten minutes every single day.

Running for ten minutes every single day is easily measured. You either do or you don’t. A goal “to start running” is challenging to measure. Once you go out and run, you’ve essentially started. Now what? Do you continue running? What’s the outcome you desire?

to eat more healthily.
to eliminate one harmful food from my diet each month.

Eating more healthily is vague and difficult to measure. And let’s be honest, your definition of “healthier” may change depending on how you feel and what you want to eat. However, the goal to eliminate one harmful food from your diet each month is measurable and easier to plan for. You can make a list of 12 foods you want to eliminate from your diet. Each month, you just focus on one. If you don’t eat that food the entire month, then you’ve succeeded! By the end of the year, you will have successfully eliminated all 12 foods from your diet.

to lose weight.
to lose one pound a week for the next twelve months.

How would you measure a goal to lose weight? Are you successful when you lose a tenth of a pound? The goal is vague and therefore difficult to plan for. It’s much easier to measure success when your goal is to lose one pound a week. You can determine the calories you need to burn and the foods you need to eat to get the job done. Each week, when you step on the scale and see that you’ve lost one pound, you know you’re successful.

A = Attainable

How attainable is your goal? A better and easier question to ask is can you plan for success?

For example, you can easily plan how to eliminate one unhealthy food each month. You can plan how to get more sleep or exercise for ten minutes a day. It’s extraordinarily difficult to plan for vague goals like “lose weight,” or “eat healthier”.

Let’s explore how to break seemingly overwhelming resolutions down into an attainable and realistic resolution.

1.) State your resolution – for example, I want to lose 60 pounds.

2.) Make it simple and specific – I want to lose five pounds a month. After a year I will have achieved my 60-pound goal.

3.) Make it measurable – This example is already measurable, however, you can break it down even further by saying, “I can lose 1.25 pounds a week to achieve my monthly 5-pound goal.”

4.) Make it attainable – I will lose 1.25 pounds a week by consuming approximately 700 fewer calories than I burn each day. (1.25 pounds is about 4375 calories. Divide that by 7 days in a week and you have 625. Round up to make sure you hit your goal each week and you’re on the path to achieve your goals!)

Note: This is for example purposes only. More and more studies have shown that all calories are not created equal. Calories from an apple pie react in your body much differently than calories from an apple.

R = Realistic

Can you make your resolution, and the steps required to succeed, part of your daily life? Take a look at your resolution and your plan to succeed. Is it realistic? Is it something you can really accomplish?

For example, if your goal is to lose 10 pounds a week by cutting back on snacks that may not be realistic. There may be other factors at work like the types of foods you eat, how much exercise you get and even how much sleep you get each week. Of course, it may be realistic and the phrase, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” is true. When you really want to accomplish something, create a plan and make it happen!

T = Timely/Timed

What’s your deadline for success? Open-ended resolutions usually don’t work because you don’t have the time pressure to achieve success. What ends up happening is that you set the same resolution year after year. (Sound familiar?) A deadline forces you to create a plan and to follow through on that plan.

Action Step – Start considering realistic resolutions you might want to set this year. Think about what your ideal life looks like and how it’s different than your life today. You can achieve anything if you set your mind to it an develop a plan to get there. Start setting those realistic resolutions now!


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