As the calendar flips to a new year, the tradition of setting resolutions comes along with it. For many people, this can mean pursuing career goals, personal development, or, for almost everyone, a healthier lifestyle in the new year.
While many aspire, few actually meet their goals because they don’t understand the keys needed to open the door that changes vague aspirations into tangible achievements. That key is knowing how to properly set goals – SMART goals.
SMART goals are a proven framework that helps people to set goals that are actually achievable – and helps them along the path to achieving them. If you’ve never encountered SMART goals before, don’t worry; we’ll break down each component to equip you with the tools you need to set resolutions that are both ambitious and attainable.
S Is For Specific: Painting a Clear Picture
First and foremost, SMART goals are specific. Instead of a vague resolution like “exercise more,” get granular about what you want to achieve. For example, what type of exercise will you do? How often? Where are you going to do it? The more specific you are in setting your goals, the clearer your path to success will be. So change your generic resolutions into something specific.
Example: “Run for 30 minutes three times a week at the local park.”
M Is For Measurable: Tracking Progress
One key aspect of effective goal-setting is how you measure progress. Without a way to measure progress, we have no way of knowing if we’re actually making meaningful movement toward our goals, which can cause us to give up before the fight really begins.
On the other hand, measurability lets you track your journey, celebrating milestones along the way.
Example: “Lose 10 pounds” or “Add 20 pounds to my bench press in six weeks.”
A Is For Achievable: Setting Realistic Targets
It’s no good making your goal “Become king of the moon.” Some things are simply not achievable. And while it’s good to dream big, it’s important to remember that the path to greatness is built one step at a time. A small achievable goal is better than a grandiose unattainable one, while also building the road to bigger achievements in the future.
Bad Example: “Run a marathon next month.”
Good Example: “Compete in a 5K in 90 days.”
R Is For Relevant: Aligning with Your Values
Your goals should be relevant. That is to say, they should align with your values, aspirations, and overall life plan. Goals should have personal significance and contribute to your broader objectives. This is also part of using our current goals as a bridge toward bigger goals down the road.
Example: “Take a yoga class for six months.”
T Is For Time-bound: Establishing a Timeline
A goal without a timeline is like a ship without a compass. The time-bound aspect of SMART adds a sense of urgency to your goals. Deadlines help us to achieve things, rather than just saying that we’re going to do it “tomorrow” and “tomorrow” never seems to come.
Bad Example: “Add 20 pounds to my squat.”
Good Example: “Add 20 pounds to my squat in six weeks.”
Putting It All Together: Crafting Your SMART Resolution
Now that we’ve dissected each component, let’s craft a SMART goal using our fitness theme:
Generic Resolution: Exercise more.
SMART Goal: Run for 30 minutes three times a week at the local park for the next three months, aiming to increase the distance covered each week.
In this example, the goal is specific (running), measurable (30 minutes), achievable (given current fitness levels), relevant (promoting cardiovascular health), and time-bound (three times a week for three months). It paints a clear picture of what success looks like, allows for progress tracking, sets a realistic target, aligns with the broader health objective, and establishes a timeline for achievement.
The SMART framework provides a powerful tool to turn your vague aspirations into specific accomplishments. It doesn’t matter if your resolutions involve fitness, career, or personal growth. The SMART blueprint navigates a path to success with confidence and clarity.
Will you apply SMART goals to your New Year’s resolution this year? Leave your experiences in the comments below.