SMART goals

15 Dec 2023

Set Goals, the SMART Way

Why set a new year goal, not resolution?

New Year resolutions and New Year goals are two different approaches to setting intentions for the new year. A resolution is typically a broad statement of intention, often related to self-improvement or behaviour change. For example, "I will exercise more" or "I will eat healthier." Resolutions often lack specific details and can be difficult to measure, making them more challenging to achieve.

On the other hand, a New Year goal is typically more specific and measurable. A goal is a concrete target that you want to achieve and often includes a plan for how you will get there. For example, "I will run a 5k in April" or "I will save x amount for a down payment on a house." Goals are usually more focused than resolutions, and they have a clear endpoint and a plan for how to achieve them.

While both resolutions and goals can be effective ways to set intentions for the new year, goals may be more effective for people who want to make specific changes and achieve measurable results.


The SMART strategy

Making a goal SMART is a great tactic to increase your chances of actually sticking with it. For many common New Year’s resolutions—like exercising more, changing eating habits and saving money—implementing this method can really help.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: “I will exercise for 30 minutes two times a week.” The non-SMART version of that: “I will finally start exercising regularly.” The first one lays out a goal that’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. The second one is vague and provides no clear direction for how you’re going to do it (somewhat like a resolution). Of course, you’ll also want to think about details, like when this workout will fit best into your schedule, what activity you will actually look forward to doing and more. But thinking within the SMART framework first is a great way to get started formulating your goals.

You can write down your SMART goals for the areas in your life you are committed to changing:

  • Specific
    Your goals should answer the questions of what you want to accomplish and why it is important to you.

  • Measurable
    Quantify your goal in a way you have control. Don't rely on someone else to measure your success such as receiving a raise. That is outside of your control.
  • Achievable
    Make sure your goal is achievable. Even the loftiest goals can be accomplished. It all starts with a single step.
  • Relevance
    Determine its relevance. Why is this important to you now? Is this goal relevant in your life right now? Relevance is particularly important when setting professional goals.
  • Time
    Time bound means setting a specific deadline for accomplishment. A deadline creates a sense of urgency to motivate us to act.


Additional tips for making your goals stick:

  1. Make smaller resolutions.

  2. Write down your goals.

  3. Tell a friend (Interestingly, however, research has shown that when you go public with your goals, you get the same satisfaction as completing your goals and you are, therefore, less likely to stick with it. So, don't tell everyone!)
  4. Enlist some help from technology (A lot of mental health apps out there can help guide you through goal-setting and forming new habits.)
  5. Celebrate small successes.
  6. Remember that it’s okay to slip up (then get back on track!).
  7. Don’t rely on others to get you where you’re going.
  8. Believe in yourself!