Even though we are a people that love to set resolutions at the beginning of a new year, the sad reality is that the majority of us will fail to achieve them. How many swear they’re going to lose weight for the umpteenth year in a row? Or say that this is the year they will “get healthy” only to stop going to the gym after one month?
Unfortunately, after a few years of this, setting resolutions for many is now become something to avoid. After all, why would you consistently set yourself up for failure? Why not just live in the moment and see where the year takes you?
But what if I told you there was a better way? What if you could set yourself up with a better chance of success? The trick is, you’ve just got to be SMART about it.
I use the acronym SMART to set all of my personal, financial and family goals every year. What does SMART stand for?
Transforming Your Resolutions Into SMART Goals
To make your health and fitness resolutions SMART, you just have to do a little crafting. For example, let’s take a common resolution: “to get healthy”
1.) Make it specific. This is actually why I prefer the term “goals” to resolution. A resolution implies you are deciding something; a goal implies a specific action you want to take.
Obviously as it stands right now, “get healthy” is not very specfic. There are many ways to get healthy — from stopping smoking, to eating more vegetables, to getting more exercise. But even saying something like “eating more fruits and veggies” or “exercising more” isn’t specific enough. To really be SMART about it, you need to define exactly what you want to do.
Specific goal: Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least 3 days a week. Even better: “do at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio a day, five days of the week” (this is the recommended guideline for healthy adults under the age of 65).
2.) Make it measurable. How are you going to track your progress? Making it concrete will not only help you stay on track, but it can also give you motivation along the way as you reach mini milestones. I am an advocate for using a fitness tracker like the FitBit or Apple Watch.
The specific goal above is clearly measurable. Success can be measured based on how often you exercise each week. But you don’t even have to be that prescriptive. The examples below are both specific and measurable:
Set a new 5K/10K/marathon PR (personal record)
Build up to being able to run for an hour
Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day
3.) Make sure it’s attainable. Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t set the bar high or shoot for the stars. But sometimes when we set grand goals that we really aren’t in a place to achieve, we’re actually setting ourselves up for failure and discouragement. I think this is why so many people give up on their resolutions after a few months. On January 1st they may be fired up to change and proudly declare: “I’m going to the gym every day!” only to find that life gets in the way and doing that is pretty near impossible. Instead, it’s much better to start small. Or to create intermediate goals and celebrate small victories along the way.
For example, an attainable goal could be to “train for and complete the National Marathon in March.” An unattainable goal would be to run every single day, or to win that marathon (as amazing as that would be!!).
4.) Make it realistic. If you aren’t a runner (or just hate running), running a marathon probably is not a realistic goal for you at the moment. That doesn’t mean you can never do one, but if you want to make sure that your goal is something you can achieve in the next year, you have to look at where you are now, and start from there. Similarly, it has to be a goal you’re willing to put in the work for.
Sometimes making something realistic might mean adding in the phrase: “I will do my best.” We can’t expect ourselves to be perfect all the time.
Realistic Goal: “I will try my best to limit desserts, aiming to eat no more than 1 dessert per week.” (vs. vowing to never eat dessert again — which isn’t realistic for me, anyway).
5.) Set a time-frame! This is probably one of the most important pieces. Without any sort of deadline, we don’t have any real motivation to make a change. If you don’t give yourself a specific date to start and a specific date to end, most likely it will be put it off. Especially if the change is hard or the task is unpleasant.
Telling yourself you’re going to start exercising or you’re going to build up to run for an hour isn’t enough. When do you want to achieve this by? Next year? In two months? Having a goal will keep you motivated, and will also help you keep track of your progress.
Timely Goal: Starting next week, I am going to do some form of cardio for at least 30 minutes, at least 3 days each week. I will to commit to this schedule for the next 3 months.
Setting SMART goals doesn’t mean you’ll never experience failure or setbacks. But it does give you something concrete to work toward and can increase your chances of being successful in 2018.
When you sit down to look at your goals for 2018, are they SMART? Or do they need a little refining? What are your goals?