As a new year and a new decade quickly approach, many of us will feel compelled to make a new year’s resolution. And once again, many will be disappointed when they fall by the wayside. But maybe this year we can shift our focus and begin the year in a healthier and more successful way, by being SMART.

As we know, new year’s resolutions are rarely fulfilled. That is often the case because the resolutions are too lofty, or too vague and open-ended. As a result, a majority of resolutions are empty, lack direction, and most often lack any true motivation for change. Maybe it is time to approach resolutions differently.

What are SMART goals?

Instead of “I will eat healthier” or “I will lose weight” as a resolution, make a more pointed, reasonably defined resolution that encourages true motivation and direction for accomplishment. That is where the SMART goal model can serve as an effective tool for change.

How to make SMART goals

The word SMART is an acronym for the process.  

S = Specific. Your defined goal should be concrete and doable while setting direction. For example, the specific goal of walking around the block is far more likely to be accomplished than the more undefined, meaningless resolution to “get into shape.”
M = Measurable.  If you determine that you will walk around the block three times every day, you can define a concrete parameter for pursuing your goal.
A = Attainable. You must have the resources to undertake your goal in a practical way. If your goal is to walk around the block three times every day, know you can step outside the door and begin without difficult or impossible barriers to achieving your goal.
R = Relevant. Your goal should have some meaning or importance in your life. Relevance energizes us and motivates us to action, but without relevance, that goal will likely slip into apathy.
T = Timeliness. It is important to set beginnings and endings to your goals along with benchmarks. You might define the goal of walking around the block three times every day as a two-week endeavor.

The act of accomplishing a goal, even a small one, has been shown to produce a sense of accomplishment, self-empowerment, and motivation that can lead to the next level of goal setting. In terms of goal setting and resolutions, the old sayings appear to be true: “the slower we go, the more certain and faster we’ll get there.” Indeed, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Maybe this year, as we enter the new year and a new decade, we can begin our journey in a more practical and successful way by setting better defined and smaller, more practical resolutions.

For more information on wellness, visit the Being section of our Lifespan Living blog.

Jon Brett, PhD

Dr. Jon Brett is a clinical psychologist at the partial hospitalization program at Newport Hospital.