How to Make New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

| December 11, 2012

New Year's resolution listMaking New Year’s resolutions is easy. Keeping New Year’s resolutions is hard. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, almost 25 percent of resolutions are broken within the first week. Is it possible to make New Year’s resolutions that stick? Yes, it is. The trick is to set yourself up for success. Taking the SMART approach to goal-setting can help you achieve anything from losing weight to taking up a musical instrument.

You might have heard about the SMART approach to goal-setting in a professional development seminar. SMART is just as effective for your personal life as it is for your career. SMART is an acronym in which each letter stands for a quality that makes a goal more achievable. Different versions of SMART exist, but here’s a basic one you can adapt for your own needs:

S stands for specific.

Saying “I want to lose 25 pounds” or “I want to decrease my waist line by 4 inches” is much more specific than saying “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get in shape.” Without a specific goal, you’ll have a hard time staying focused and knowing if you have made progress. “S” could also stand for satisfying. To stick with a New Year’s resolution, you need to either enjoy the process or find enough satisfaction in the end result that the hard work is worth it.

M stands for measurable.

Break your goal into small chunks, and track your progress. For instance, if you want to run a 5K, consider following a program such as Couch-to-5K. Keep a log of your workouts, and make note of the distance you cover and your pace. Seeing your progress will be motivating, another word “M” could stand for. Give yourself daily doses of inspiration to keep yourself focused on your goals. This could be as simple as collecting motivational quotes on Pinterest or reading a productivity blog such as Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits.

A stands for attainable.

Are you in the position—financially, physically, schedule-wise—to obtain your goal? For instance, if you want to learn how to play the piano, but you don’t currently have access to a piano and can’t afford one, it’s going to be difficult to achieve that goal. “A” should also stand for accountable. It’s often easier to reach a goal when you have an accountability partner—perhaps a friend or even a personal trainer.

stands for realistic.

This is similar to attainable. For example, it’s realistic to lose an average of 2 pounds per week; it’s not realistic to lose 10 pounds in a week. Realistic also relates to lifestyle. If you’re required to be at your desk and ready to work at 7:30 a.m., it might not be realistic to exercise before work each day. “R” can also stand for relationships. Setting a goal with a spouse or friend or even as a family will help you grow closer together and give you some built-in accountability partners.

stands for timely.

Give yourself a deadline, or tie your goal to an event. Rather than saying, “I’m going to start exercising,” train for a specific event, such a 5K or sprint triathlon. T can also stand for treats. When it’s time to reward yourself on a job well done, search DexKnows to find a place to treat yourself with a pedicure, a massage or a night at the movies.

By applying the SMART technique to your New Year’s resolutions, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. Who knows? Maybe 2013 will be the last year you need to make New Year’s resolutions!

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Category: New Year's

About the Author ()

Kate Johanns is an Austin, Texas-based writer and editor. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism.