Skip Resolutions—Make SMARTER Goals!

Don’t leave your dreams to the whim of the wind, make SMARTER goals.

It’s getting toward the end of the year when people start reflecting upon the past year and thinking about their intentions for the next. About half of people in the US make resolutions at the New Year. But sadly, resolutions don’t work! According to the American Council on Exercise, a quarter of all people who make New Year’s resolutions drop them within the first week and by the end of the month, 66% of people have stopped working toward what they resolved to do. It gives weight to the adage, A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.

Typical Resolutions

But what if we could make resolutions better? Make them smarter so they stick?

SMARTER goals help improve achievement and success. They clarify exactly what is expected, measures used to determine if the goal is successfully completed, and ensure commitment. These are the areas where resolutions fail, making SMARTER goals a smarter way to make positive change.

A SMARTER Goal is:


Answers the question—Who, What, When, Why, and Where? Research has shown that goals must be specific in order to generate motivated activity.

Example: Complete the Beat the Blerch marathon race September 12, 2020 by instituting and completing a Novice Runners Plan from Hal Higdon, starting January 1, 2020.


Answers the question—How? Goals must be measurable so you can check your progress over time.

Example: Decrease body fat by 10% by April 30, 2020 by eating Whole Food, Plant-Based, No Oil for all meals and snacks.


Goals are realistic and are reasonably achievable in a specific amount of time. Not only whether they are physically possible, but mentally and emotionally achievable as well. Do you have the tools you need to succeed? Is it safe?

Example: Lose 1-2 pounds a week through Whole Food, Plant-Based, No Oil eating and 150 minutes of heart rate-elevating exercise per week.


Is this something you really want? Goals set must be realistic.

Example: Eliminate 90% of single-use plastic during my grocery shopping by using reusable produce bags and reusable grocery bags, and choosing glass, metal, paper, or no-container options for grocery items by February 1, 2020. 

Time framed:

Have a clearly defined time-frame including a target or deadline date. To serve as motivators, goals must be structured so they can be tracked along some measure of time, distance, or other meaningful metric.

Example: Find and join a triathlon training group by February 1, 2020 so that I can start a supported Sprint Triathlon training program to complete my first tri by August 31, 2020.


Having goals are great, but if they do not motivate or encourage you to accomplish change, what good are they? Motivation is vitally important to goal accomplishment. Internal or external rewards of goal accomplishment are great motivating factors in SMARTER goals.

Example: Starting January 3, add 120 minutes of resistance training every week to my workout plan so that I decrease body fat and increase lean body mass in preparation to our trip to Hawaii May 15, 2020.


Progress should be checked at specifically identified intervals. As the adage goes, you get what you inspect, therefore, if you want to meet your goals, you must check your progress. Not only are these important for redirection should you be off-track, but they are opportunity for celebration for work toward completing your goal. This a great motivator! All too often, goals are made with all the best intentions in the world but never tracked or evaluated along the way. Forgetting this step really can nullify the whole process, as you will never inspect to see if you getting there.

Example: Complete an audit of our family’s garbage and recycling every week to determine what we are disposing and how we can make changes to reduce our waste stream by 50% by June 1, 2020.

Not a SMARTER Goal:

  • I will lose weight
  • I’m going to work out
  • I want to go vegan

See the difference? These typical resolutions do not identify a measurement or time frame, are not specific, nor are they motivating. In essence, there’s no accountability.

Making SMARTER Goals

  • Start by writing out why this goal is important to you. This helps with motivation and commitment. If you can’t explain it, spend some time thinking about whether this is a goal you’re ready to invest time and energy in and whether it’s your goal or not.
  • Go through each SMARTER component and write out each piece of that goal. Make sure it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time framed, Encouraging, and how you will Review it.
  • List Obstacles and identify Solutions for each of them. What tools, knowledge, support do you need for success?
  • Using all of these components, write out your final SMARTER Goal. Writing it down is key—you’re essentially writing out a contract with yourself!

Try SMARTER Goals this year instead of resolutions. Think back on how resolutions have served you in the past. Odds are, like more Americans, they haven’t helped you much in achieving the changes you sought. Yes, this takes a little time to develop, but once you’ve mastered this skill you’ll start crafting SMARTER goals with ease, and maybe incorporating them into other areas of your life! Don’t let your plans be only wishes…make them achievable, powerful, actionable goals!

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