New Year’s Resolutions: How to Set a SMART Goal

Tomorrow we welcome 2014.  Happy New Year, Happy New You!

If you’re like most people, you’ve given some thought to your New Year’s resolutions for 2014.  And if so, they likely have something to do with getting in shape and becoming more healthy.

But how can you make this year different from the past where you found yourself a few weeks or months into 2103 and already off track?  What could you do differently this year to give yourself the best chance for success?  The answer is… set a SMART goal.

The reason many people fail in achieving their goals is because their goals are too broad or just plain unrealistic.  When that’s the case, failure is the only option.  To ensure success, it pays to invest up-front time in planning your goals the SMART way.

What is a SMART goal?  A SMART goal is:  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.  If you’re able to define all of these elements of your goal, then your goal meets the SMART criteria and you have an excellent chance of reaching it.

S = Specific

  • What do you need to accomplish?  Why?  What outcome is desired?
  • What resources do you need to achieve your goal (gym membership, equipment, book, trainer/coach)?

M = Measurable

  • How will you know if you’re on track along the way?  What metric will you measure?
  • When will you know whether modifications are needed to reach the goal?

A = Achievable

  • Do you have the abilities and attitude to meet this goal?
  • Is this goal really within reach?  Do you really “believe” you can meet this goal?

R = Realistic

  • Is this truly your goal for yourself?  Or did someone else set this goal for you?
  • Is this goal relevant based on your individual needs and interests?

T = Time-bound

  • How long are you giving yourself to accomplish this goal?
  • What are the mini-goals along the way?

If you can answer the above questions about your goal, you can create your SMART goal statement.  Research shows you’re significantly more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down.  So start with a SMART goal statement; develop mini milestones along the way; record your daily progress toward your goal; then reach the finish line!

Here’s an example of a typical New Year’s Resolution, that’s not too SMART:

  • “I am going to lose weight and get healthy this year.”

Here’s that same goal re-written as a SMART goal statement:

  • “I am going to lose five pounds in the next five weeks (one pound per week) by sticking to a calorie intake of 1400 calories/day or fewer and exercising 4-5 days per week in my training heart rate zone for a minimum of 45 minutes per session.”
Do you see how that SMART goal is easy to measure?  From the SMART goal statement, you can get your calendar, map out the next five weeks, schedule your exercise sessions and sketch out your meal plan.  Sure, the SMART goal setting takes more up-front planning and tedious tracking of milestones and progress.  But you can’t fail if you stick to it!

One of my favorite Christmas gifts last year was a Fitbook (click here to see), to record my health and fitness goals and track progress.  There are many tools like this that can help you commit and stay on track.  A plain notebook or spreadsheet will do the trick, too.  Bottom line – if you really are serious (are you???) about your New Year’s resolutions, be SMART about it!

 photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net (header) and amazon.com (Fitbook)

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