Make New Year’s Resolutions SMART Goals

Many of us begin the new year with resolutions for lifestyle improvement such as losing weight,
becoming more physically active or developing better sleep habits. Unfortunately, most of
these resolutions fail because they are too vague. The key to successful change is baby steps:
small, realistic goals with a predetermined beginning and completion. An acronym for this is
S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

For example, suppose your resolution is to get back in shape. How might we frame that in the
SMART context? While completing a marathon might be a life-changing event, it’s not a realistic
goal for somebody who isn’t already a runner. A smarter goal might be run/walk for ten
minutes 2-3 days per week for two weeks. By focusing on time rather than speed or distance,
this goal is attainable but also measurable. It is specific, relevant to the long-term goal (finishing
a marathon), and can be completed in a short timeframe.


S.M.A.R.T goals build self-efficacy, your confidence in being able to act successfully on your
aspirations. As you near completion of your first goal, you can build on this with subsequent
goals. In this case, a realistic second goal might be extending the run/walk time by five minutes.
Building on this consistently for several months could lead you to the start (and finish line) of a
local 5K race.

Well-conceived S.M.A.R.T goals carry additional benefits. For example, as a beginning runner
you might decide to visit the local running specialty shop to get a good pair of shoes. While you
are there, you learn that the store has fun runs for beginners several nights per week. Not only
do running buddies help you stay on track with your goals, but also lead to enduring
friendships. As we grow older and our social networks shrink, exercise buddies are a way to
reverse the trend.

Our bodies tend to do better when asked to change along a continuum rather than all at once.
A plan for improvement based on small, achievable goals will be one that you and your body
can live with, well into 2023.

Nina Russin, a veteran journalist for over 30 years, is currently pursuing her doctoral degree at
Arizona State University College of Health Solutions.

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