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How To Use S.M.A.R.T. Goals For New Year's Resolutions

Updated on December 30, 2013
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According to research,only 46 percent of those who make New Year's resolutions keep them 6 months into the year. The implementation of the SMART goal setting technique could help one keep their resolutions. Introduced in Management Review Magazine by George T. Doran in 1981, the technique has been widely used in business management and educational settings. It can also easily be applied to our personal lives in areas such as health, finances and relationships.

When forming your resolutions or goals, carefully consider the who,what,when,where and why type questions. Who does the goal involve, what is it you want and why do you want it? Is it really important to you, and why?

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for:






Specific Goals

  • Resolutions (goals) should be written down and stated positively. You will have a conscious visual reminder to refer to daily.
  • Stated positively, you have a set of instructions for the subconscious mind to carry out.(The subconscious mind does not care about right or wrong, it just does as its told.)
  • A place to write them? In the front of a nice new day planner.
  • The goals should be specific.


I will eat healthier. (not specific)

I will limit my intake of empty calories (junk food) to 3 servings per week. (specific)

I will not turn my homework in late. (negatively stated)

I will turn my homework in on time.(stated positively)

Measurable Goals

Most people who want to lose weight have a specific number that they wish to reach on the scales or a BMI (Body Mass Index). This is a typical goal measurement. All goals set need to be measurable in some way as well.


I will have some money set aside in a savings account for emergencies. (not measurable)

In six months I will have $1200 set aside in a savings account for emergencies (measurable)

Additionally it is a good idea to set benchmarks to measure progress at intervals. This way a goal can be adjusted if necessary. Perhaps the goal was too easy or too hard to reach. That brings us to the A for Attainable.

Attainable Goals

Setting attainable goals means setting goals that are reachable in the amount of time set to reach them. If a goal is not realistically attainable, the subconscious mind will remind the conscious mind that it is just not do-able and failure will be inevitable. At the same time, the goal should be challenging enough to cause oneself to figure out new ways of achieving the goals. In this way we grow in ways that match the loftiness of the goals and improve our self image.


A person with a $50,000 per year income has a goal to obtain a mortgage for a $300,000 home. (not attainable)

A high school student has a goal to work and save money for two summers to buy a used car.(attainable)

Realistic Goals

A realistic goal is simply one that is reachable and sensible. In the above example under writing specific goals, the person who made the goal of no more than three servings of junk food per week realizes that zero servings per week is probably not going to be attainable. It is just too unreasonable for his life style.

A realistic goal is one that the person has the means and capability to achieve.


I will learn to speak three new languages fluently by the end of the year. (unrealistic, provided that the person is not a genius!)

I will perform 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week every week next year.(realistic)

Time Bound Goals

All goals should include a time frame. Otherwise the goals end up being too vague. There is no pressure to get started, no end point in sight and no structure to the goals. Bench mark points can't be set. Bench marks are important for monitoring the appropriateness of the goals and for self rewarding. The time frames should be attainable and realistic.


I will lower my bad cholesterol number by five points in the next three months. (time bound)

I will add $1000 dollars into savings account ( not time bound).

Putting It All Together

Now that we know how to write a SMART goal we can take some typical New Year's resolutions and turn them into SMART resolutions.

resolution: I will quit smoking this year.

SMART resolution: I will reduce my intake of nicotine (cigarettes gum or patches) by ten percent each week for ten weeks. At the end of ten weeks I will be nicotine free.

resolution: This year I will get in shape.

SMART resolution: I will work out with 30 minutes aerobic activity and 15 minutes of weight training activity three times weekly.

resolution: This year I will stop procrastinating

SMART resolution: I will make a daily to - do list and prioritize the list with numbers in order of importance and perform the tasks accordingly to complete at least 80% of the list by the end of the day.

Click here for a SMART goals template

Video Explaining SMART Goals

The If/Then Factor

Stuff happens. When circumstances change one needs to be ready to identify and remove hindering obstacles. Job lay offs and pay cuts can affect goals involving finances.One may be trapped in a household where foods high in trans fats dominate. Long term illnesses and injuries occur. It is important to realize what circumstances can be changed, how obstacles can be removed and to monitor and adjust resolutions accordingly.

Good Luck and Happy New Year!


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    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, cat, I am so glad you found this helpful, and Happy New Year!

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Rebecca,

      This is so helpful with your clear examples. I usually failed at my new year's resolutions then gave up altogether, yet being realistic and specific is how I approach the small tasks throughout the year. I never really equated the two. Thank you for putting it all into perspective. :)

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, WiccanSage, I am glad this helps. Happy New Year!

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Ooh, I like this. I started thinking about a better way to tackle New Year's Resolutions a long time ago, but you've done a great job here in streamlining the thought process to put one in a better position to achieve success. Very nice hub, I love it.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for the votes and shares. Happy New Year, Victoria and Jay. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 3 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Excellent suggestion. I was a human resources director before retirement and not only used the SMART goal-setting method personally, but taught managers how to do so. I worked for a very goal-oriented company, and this technique really works.

      Voted Up++


    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 3 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      46%? I just heard on the news yesterday that only 8% keep their resolutions. LOL Maybe it has gone down. SMART is a great way to make specific and measurable goals. Great hub. Sharing!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      That's good. Happy New Year!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Never heard of the SMART approach before. Fortunately, I learned to plan and "resolve" from my parents and they seem to have followed the SMART approach without specifically naming it.

      It does make all the difference, my "vague" lists never get completed, but my "specific, thought out" ones do. Good Hub. Theresa

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      This is very timely... many of us will be making New Year's resolutions, with this tool we will have a much better chance of success. Great hub.

      A Happy New Year to You.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Lots of good information and recommendations here for people who insist on making New Year resolutions. I did as a kid because it seemed the thing to do with everyone around me doing so, but as an adult, I don't take part. I try to do what needs doing everyday. If it's important, it will most likely stay on the list until it's done.

      You make this resolution business more practical and sensible with these guidelines. Everyone should read this.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for sharing the SMART goals. I hope many will benefit.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      SMART goal-setting is a useful and common sense method to use for resolutions and day-to-day issues and concerns. You've done a great job explaining the method and its uses.

      Great hub; voted up and Shared. Linked to as well.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for sharing a positive experience using SMART goals. Good luck in the new year. Thanks for the votes.

    • stephanieb27 profile image

      stephanieb27 4 years ago from United States

      I started with the SMART goals last new year and love it! Setting the goals makes us think about how we are going to reach them! I wrote mine out two days ago. Here is to reaching our goals this year!!! :) Great hub, thanks for sharing!!! Voted up and useful!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks, hopefully the SMART goals will help someone stick to those great resolutions. Thanks for commenting, have a great year.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great advice! So many times we set goals or make resolutions that are too hard to achieve. Your suggestions here make very good sense. Up and useful! Have a wonderful 2013! :)

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 5 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Oh I really like the S M A R T acronym! That makes keeping these resolutions easier to attain. I also like making them positive and specific. Very helpful. Thumbs up on a great hub!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks for the compliment and for reading. Now is a good time to take stock and revisit our resolutions!

    • Marie-Renee profile image

      Renee 5 years ago

      Great hub Rebecca, sometimes we expect too much from ourselves and thus become frustrated but following the SMART way will really help us reach our goals and avoid frustrations. Aside from using it ourselves, we should also teach our children and students the SMART way to set their goals. Voted up! Very useful!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Thanks RTalloni, and Happy New Year to you!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Your SMART goals hub should be very helpful to people of all ages. The theme is a great way to think through meeting objectives. Thanks fo rshring!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Right, well I think also that some times we are too hard on ourselves. we should stop and give ourselves credit for the good we have done, maybe give our self a pat on the back? Best wishes for your year and thanks for your kind comments.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      You are so right, most of our New Year resolutions are not implemented at all. I'm one of the people who cannot implement even ten percent of his resolutions. I will try once again to live up my new years resolutions.