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SMART Goal Setting: Keeping Those New Years Resolutions

Updated on January 3, 2015

With the new year upon us, it is that peculiar time when many people gather up resolve to be different in a way that will somehow improve their quality of life. Often this comes in the form of a goal, or resolution. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it doesn’t move much past an idea that one fancies, but never takes shape. The funny thing about goals is that they can be very slippery, or hard to hold on to and achieve, without the proper foundation.

As a physical therapist, I am pretty good at rule setting; it’s my job for goodness sake! We set, assess, fail to reach, and achieve goals all day long. In physical therapy school I was taught to make SMART goals, and I still use this method today. I’d like to share it with you, whether this is new or revisited information, because it really has the power to catalyze change in your life.

All goals should be SMART. That is:

S – Specific. Making the goal focused and specifying exactly what is to be achieved allows it to become more…

M – Measurable. “Get better at (xyz)” is not a goal. How do you measure “better”? Points? Miles? Dollars? Pounds? Include those units in the goal.

A – Achievable. I think this is the most difficult letter, but it gets easier with practice. Goals should stretch a person beyond where they are now, but not so much that they are not achievable. It does not mean all goals will be achieved (if they are, the bar is being set too low!).

R – Realistic. Similar to “achievable”. Here, though, one takes time to consider potentially confounding variables that might influence the goal’s achievement.

T – Timely. Without a timeframe set, the goal is left open-ended and foggy. Putting a unit of time behind the goal can serve as a huge motivating factor, creating a healthy “pressure” that challenges us to keep moving forward.


When writing goals, try to avoid statements like "I hope to..." or "I will try to...". Act as if you are a prophet foretelling the future and do your best to live it out! For example, if your goal is to exercise more this year, be specific. If you'd like to exercise 5 days a week then your goal may look something like, "for the months of January-March(or whenever) I will exercise for 30 minutes 5 days a week." You could even make it more specific by saying, "for the months of January-March, I will jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes 3 days a week and do weight training for 2 days a week." Specificity and confidence are key!


One last comment: do not get discouraged if your SMART goal is not achieved in every facet. Part of the benefit of making it SMART is that you measure where you are right now, and then you measure yourself later. If you’re better, you’re better! That is the purpose of the goal, is it not? Without the goal, you likely would not have improved. I’m sure many, like me, have a long history of failed goals. This is never an excuse to give up. If you want to quit something, quit again. If you want to start something, start again. Have a wonderful and happy 2015!

How long do your New Year's Resolutions usually last?

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    • easylearningweb profile image

      Amelia Griggs 2 years ago

      I like this explanation using an acronym. Also, I agree that goals have to be measurable, good tips!

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