Setting a New Year Resolution, the SMART way

Written By: Amy Gray, LPC-IT

2020 is almost here! With the new year, it is common for people to set a new year resolution or a new goal. If you’re like most people it can be difficult to set a goal and then actually meet it. So how do you set a goal with the highest chance of following through? Make it a SMART goal, or in other words, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (University of California, 2016).

Make your goal as specific and concise as possible. Include the what, who, when, where,  and why questions. What specifically do you want to accomplish? Who needs to be involved in your goal? When would you like this goal to be accomplished? Does this goal have a specific location? For example, if I set my goal as “to eat healthier food,” it is missing the specifics. A more specific goal would be, “to include at least one cup of vegetables with dinner daily for at least one week.”

After you have clarified your goal, think about how you would like to measure it. A good question to ask when looking for how to measure a goal is “how will I know that this goal is completed?” To use the example from above, you could measure out one cup of vegetables with each meal. Some other examples could be exercising for at least 30 minutes each day, reading one new novel each month, saving at least $50 each paycheck, or spending at least one hour with family each night. Typically, there is an amount associated with measuring that can be followed when tracking whether or not this goal has been achieved.

Once you have a specific and measurable goal in mind, think about if this goal is realistically achievable. Does it seem to be too much, too fast? Does this goal need any special skills, support, or research? To continue the goal above, it might be helpful to do more research on daily recommended amounts of vegetables to be sure that daily nutrition needs are being met. Other examples might be enlisting support from someone who is knowledgeable about the goal we are wanting to achieve, or reading up on related topics. Consider what you might need to know about this goal in order to achieve it.

Next, consider the relevance of your goal. What makes this goal so important to you? What could be motivating you to set this goal for yourself? Consider the “why” of this goal and if it follows what you are truly trying to achieve. Maybe the goal of eating more vegetables is important because eating vegetables can lead to a healthier life. Whatever your reasoning might be, the goal being set should be relate-able to what you are hoping to achieve.

Lastly, the goal you set should be time-bound. What is your deadline for achieving this goal? When do you want to have achieved this goal? Is the timeframe that you set realistic, or could it require more or less time? Setting a realistic timeframe for our goals helps us hold ourselves accountable, and to effectively record our growth.

To consider a few other points, setting a realistic new year resolution can be tricky, and a lot of people tend to struggle to meet these resolutions. So, remember to start small, and to be kind to yourself. Not meeting a goal should not be a harsh sign of failure, rather it simply means that the goal needs to be readjusted to be more achievable. When setting your 2020 resolution, be sure to make it (S) specific, (M) measurable, (A) achievable, (R) relevant, and (T) time-bound, and set yourself up for the best chance of success.



University of California. (2016). SMART Goals: A How to Guide. Retrieved from University of California Office of the President: