How to set SMART goals

Studies show that more than half of all new year’s resolutions fail. One third of them don’t even make it to February! So if you’ve slipped back into old habits, be assured that you are not alone.

Don’t throw in the towel yet! You can still salvage those goals. Here are some tips to get you back on track.

Stick to one goal

When it comes to new year’s resolutions, help yourself by keeping it to just one. Trying to modify too many behaviors at once is overwhelming — and a good way to succeed at none of them, especially if you’re making major lifestyle changes.


A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research showed that it’s most effective to focus on one goal at a time, so choose the one that matters the most to you.

Make your goals SMART

You’ve probably heard of SMART goals, but what does that mean? SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Specific – Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” say “I want to lose 20 pounds by December.”

Measurable – If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, you’ll want to get on the scale regularly. But what if your resolution isn’t easily measured? Log your progress in a journal or take photos of yourself following your new routine. This will help you track your behavior and tie it to concrete results.

Achievable – Challenge yourself, by all means. But don’t be unreasonable. Unattainable goals only set up you for disappointment and failure.

Relevant – Make sure you’re pursuing your goal for the right reasons. Are you doing it because your spouse (or mother, or friends, or society) think you should, or because it’s important to you?

Time-bound – Set a timeline for your resolution, including incremental goals that you can measure along the way. If you’re making a lifelong change (say, quitting smoking), recognize and reward yourself for your hard work in the shorter term.

Be flexible

Things don’t always work out as planned. Being open to tweaking your schedule or even your goals will help you keep your new year’s resolution.

For example, say you resolved to run 3 days a week, and you start waking up an hour early to go for a run in the morning before work. But say you oversleep one morning and miss your run. Do you say “Well, I blew it!” and throw up your hands? Of course not! Go for that run after dinner — or the next morning — instead!

Or maybe after a few weeks of running in the morning you find that you’re rushing through your shower and commute and ending up a sweaty mess at your desk. That doesn’t mean you have to stop running — maybe running in the morning is the problem. Try running at night!

Plan for roadblocks

You will inevitably encounter obstacles on the road to self-improvement. Be prepared!

Say your resolution is to cut back on sweets, but you know that your coworkers always bring doughnuts into the office on Fridays. How will you handle it? Pack yourself a tasty but healthy snack that will satisfy your cravings without derailing your progress.


Be kind to yourself

Mistakes happen — it’s not the end of the world! A lapse doesn’t have to turn into a relapse.

If you slip up once, pretend it never happened and just move on.

But if you keep slipping, take a step back and try to figure out where the breakdown is happening. Are you failing to plan? Are you giving in to moments of weakness? Learn from each of your hiccups and devise a plan for preventing the next one.

If your resolution was to quit drinking soda but you find yourself reaching for a Diet Coke every afternoon at 3, try to figure out why. Are you looking for a caffeine fix? Maybe a cup of hot tea or a piece of dark chocolate would do the trick!

Whatever you do, don’t give up! You have more than three quarters left of 2019 — plenty of time to turn your resolutions into reality. Keep going!

elise sig.png