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

Updated on December 30, 2013
A New Day Dawns
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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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