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How to Set (and Actually Reach) Your New Year’s Resolutions

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Here we go again (insert ABBA’s Mamma Mia here). Another 365 days have gone by, and let’s face it, 2020 was not what we all were expecting. Most of us had goals and ideas for things that we wanted to accomplish, and for one reason or another we weren’t able to do those things, or we had to exercise our problem solving skills to modify those goals or ways to achieve them. But now that we are (thankfully?) at the end of another year, people are beginning to talk about New Year’s resolutions and how 2021 is going to be “my year”. But did you know that only approximately eight percent of New Year’s resolutions are actually achieved?


I don’t know about you, but Math was not my major in college, and I still know that’s not a great success rate. But why is that the case? Why do the majority of us let our New Year’s resolutions fall to the wayside after just a few weeks? It’s because they are not SMART.

No, I’m not calling you unintelligent (and I would never by the way). SMART is just an acronym for the most successful way to set and actually reach your goals.

So, let’s talk a little bit about Suzie and her goal for 2021. She wants to “be healthier”. It sounds like she has a pretty good idea of what she wants, right? Not really. Let’s help her turn that lofty, vague idea into a SMART goal.

S- specific. In order to be successful with our goals, we need to know what we are actually trying to do, which is a little bit more difficult than it sounds. Suzie wants to “be healthier”, but what she really means is that she wants to lose weight so she can run around and play with her grandkids that she is currently struggling to keep up with. Losing some weight will in turn decrease her blood pressure and knee pain that she has also been having.

M- measurable. “Losing weight” is still vague though. Would Suzie reach her goal if she lost merely 1 pound? Probably not what she was thinking. So, let’s make it measurable, a number that is easily identifiable so Suzie will know exactly when she will reach her goal. The update looks a little bit like this: “I want to lose 30 pounds by only eating fruits and vegetables”.

A- achievable. Unfortunately, it is probably not achievable (or healthy) for Suzie to lose 30 pounds by limiting her food choices to only 2 food groups. Based on her current eating habits of eating meat and grains daily with the occasional scoop (or 3) of ice cream with a warm chocolate chip cookie, severely limiting her choices would be a drastic change. A more achievable goal for Suzie may be to add at least one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables to her existing dietary routine. That sounds a little less scary, right? Now, her goal stands as “I want to lose 30 pounds by adding at least one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables to my diet every day”.

R- relevant. At this point in the goal-making process, we’ve been able to focus on what exactly Suzie wants to do and how she’s going to do it. But one of the most researched and studied topics in the behavioral sciences is also one of the most important when talking about goals: motivation. If a person is not motivated to do something, the likelihood that they will put forth effort to do so is slim to none. Suzie previously mentioned that she wants to lose weight to be more active with her grandchildren, whom she loves very much and enjoys spending as much time as she possibly can with, which makes this goal very important to her. This goal may not be as relevant to Suzie if her primary care doctor merely suggested she lose some weight. No offense to medical professionals! But research has shown that goals are more likely to be achieved if it’s something WE want as opposed to if someone else wants it.

T- timely. Last, but certainly not least, it would be beneficial for Suzie to identify how long she wants to be working towards this goal. If not, she could be working on losing her 30 pounds for the next 10 years (Sound familiar? No? Just me…). She considers what may be a reasonable amount of time, and Suzie decides that it would be most realistic for her to set a time frame of 6 months. This would equate to losing approximately 1 pound per week, which sounds doable.

Now let’s put it all together. Suzie’s SMART goal is “I want to be healthier by losing weight (specific), precisely 30 pounds (measurable) by adding at least one serving of fruit and one serving of vegetables to my daily dietary routine (achievable) because I want to spend more quality time with my grandkids (relevant) in the next 6 months (timely)”.

Phew. That’s a lot more than just “I want to be healthier”. But that’s the point! Now, instead of having just a general idea of what Suzie’s goal is, she knows exactly what, when, and how she is going to do it.

Bonus tip: Research has shown that, in addition to developing SMART goals, people are nearly 40% more likely to achieve their goals by merely writing them down.

That being said, I encourage you to spend the next few days considering your dreams and desires for the upcoming year and develop your own SMART goals of how you will achieve them. Feel free to also “write down” your goals either in the comment section below or share them on our social media pages at ZENlightenment Wellness Center on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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