How to Set Achievable Goals and Resolutions

Do you set New Year's Resolutions? What about goals and resolutions the rest of the year?

Many of us make grand plans for the new year.... and most of us do not follow through with these goals and resolutions. Why?

All too often, the best of intentions seem to turn out less wonderful than expected. There are several reasons New Year's Resolutions can be doomed to failure. On the other hand, there are some key strategies you can use to make sure that you do achieve the resolutions you make. In this article, learn about the habits that decrease your chances of success, and find out how to set goals or resolutions that you can achieve.

Some of the following may be familiar. Watch out - these habits doom your goals and resolutions to failure before you even begin.

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Habits That Keep Your Resolutions From Lasting

1. Resolve to do something you hate; even thinking about this resolution saps your energy and fills you with dread.

2. Decide to do something you have not been successful at before, and hope that just by making a "resolution," you will do it this time.

3. Make a resolution but no plan for how to get there.

4. Try to achieve something very, very large, with no smaller steps along the way; either pass or fail with no in between.

5. Set a vague goal with no clear ways to measure whether you have achieved it.

6. Make the same goals and resolutions as you made last year. And the year before that....

We have all fallen into these bad habits at one time or another. Most of us can think of a time when we set a resolution that we did not achieve.

Think about a resolution or a goal you did achieve. How was that time different? What did you do that helped you reach that goal?

Here are some habits you might recognize in your successes.

Positive Habits for Success

1. Set goals and resolutions that you want to achieve and that you believe to be worthwhile - and plan for a rewarding conclusion to your efforts.

2. Think about what you will actually do (and do differently) to reach your goal - simply setting a goal is not enough, and plan the steps you will take to be successful.

4. Break down your overall goal into smaller sub-goals that are more easily achievable.

5. Make each goal and sub-goal specific and measurable.

Goals and resolutions must be SMART:

S - Specific

M - Measurable

A - Achievable

R - Realistic

T - Time oriented

Specific: The goal must be clearly defined, and about one specific action or achievement. If there are multiple facets of a change you want to aim for, set multiple goals.

Measurable: It needs to be clear when and if you have reached your goal. In other words, you need a way to measure your progress and your success.

Achievable: Make sure the goal is something possible and within reach.

Realistic: Goals and resolutions need to be realistic given the time, resources, energy, and drive you have to pursue them.

Time oriented: Make a deadline for each step (sub-goal) and for the overall goal to provide some guidelines for when each step needs to be pursued and achieved.

Goal Setting Example

Resolution: I will get in shape this year.

Let's see if this resolution is SMART:

Specific - What is meant by "in shape?" That is not very specific.

Measurable - If it is not even clear what "in shape" means, we cannot measure whether a person is "in shape" or even if the person is closer to "in shape."

Achievable - How can we achieve something when we don't know what it is?

Realistic - Deciding to "get in shape" is not very realistic because there is no plan for how to do this.

Time oriented - "This year" is very vague. Does it mean by the end of this year? Part way through the year? What needs to be done when?

This resolution is not specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, or time oriented. What are the chances of succeeding at this resolution? Almost none.

Even if a person succeeds in making some changes, it is unclear when or if the resolution is met.

Here's how to do this resolution the SMART way. Example of a SMART goal:

Resolution: By May of this year, I will improve my physical stamina by climbing two consecutive flights of stairs twice each weekday at work.

To achieve this goal, I will complete the following steps:

1. Beginning January 5, I will go down the stairs every weekday when I leave work.

2. Starting February 1, I will go up one flight of stairs when I arrive at work, and take the elevator the rest of the way. I'll continue going down the stairs at the end of the day.

3. As of March 1, I will go up both flights of stairs when I arrive at work, and continue going down the stairs at the end of the day.

4. As of April 1, I will go up the stairs when I arrive at work and on my lunch break, and take the stairs down on my way home.


Specific - Yes. Improve stamina by climbing two consecutive flights of stairs twice daily is specific.

Measurable - Yes. It is possible to measure how many flights of stairs are climbed and it is clear whether two consecutive flights of stairs are climbed twice daily. If I am not climbing two flights of stairs, I can measure how many stairs I am climbing to see how far I am from my goal.

Achievable - Yes, it is possible to climb two flights of stairs twice each weekday.

Realistic - Yes, my schedule would realistically allow me to take the stairs in the morning, during lunch, and after work. I am physically capable of climbing stairs, and with the steps outlined, will eventually be able to climb two flights of stairs in a row.

Time oriented - Yes. The overall goal has a date that it will be achieved by, and each subgoal has a start date.

This goal is SMART.

It takes some thinking and planning to set a SMART goal, but it is worth the effort because the goal is far more likely to be achieved.


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