How to Make SMART New Year’s Resolutions

How to Make Smart, Realistic New Year's Resolutions

There’s good news and bad news related to New Year’s resolutions…

The bad news: A Journal of Clinical Psychology study reported that 54% of people give up on their resolutions within 6 months, and only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s resolution by the end of the year.

The good news (if you’re still reading…): Another study published in the same journal stated that people who-despite the statistics-make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who don’t make resolutions at all.

It seems many people have a love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions, and in my professional opinion, I can see how certain types of resolutions can backfire…especially those centered around strict rules and all-or-nothing thinking.

On the bright side, New Year’s resolutions can be made in a “SMART” way, so based on the research…I’ll go out on a limb and say:  Don’t stop making New Year’s resolutions!

Author Terry Felber sums up a common problem associated with New Year’s resolutions in one sentence:

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re not going to like where you end up.”

The absence of a clear plan for how to follow through with New Year’s resolutions ultimately leads to a feeling of failure days, weeks, or months after the new year. Although many people have an end result (the resolution itself), in mind, they don’t have a plan for how to get there, so…

How do you make a resolution that leads you toward your desired destination and defies the statistics?

  • Avoid diet resolutions and those that focus on a number on the scale. Since 95% of dieters regain their lost weight within 1-5 years, choose to shift your focus to resolutions that lead to long-term health instead.
  • First, decide where you want to end up. For example, many of my clients want to learn to “Eat healthier.” Notice how vague this is? From here, begin formulating a plan. I’ll help you with this…just keep reading…
  • Since eating healthier encompasses numerous actions, choose ONE behavior you’d like to change. If one behavior doesn’t seem like enough, remember this:

“Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” -Tanzanian Proverb

  • Consider the following as you plan a “SMART” resolution:

SPECIFIC (Who, What, Where, When, Why?): Get specific about which behavior you’ll work on changing first. For example, “I will eat more balanced, home-cooked dinners each week to support my goal of eating healthier.”

MEASURABLE (How will you know you’ve accomplished your resolution?): Decide the number of dinners you’d like to eat at home per week. For example, “I will eat dinner at home 4 nights per week.”

ATTAINABLE (What are the steps to reaching your goal?): What will it take to serve a home-cooked dinner 4 nights per week? You’ll likely need to schedule time to plan meals, repurpose leftovers, make regular grocery store trips, and cook dinner. Having a plan is key!

REALISTIC (How motivated are you? What are the obstacles and how will you overcome them to stay on the path to reaching your goal?): Do you hate planning meals? Sign up for an online service like YourSupperSolution.com to get weekly nutritious dinner menus and recipes delivered to your inbox.

TANGIBLE (How will you experience your resolution or know you’ve reached your goal?): You will be cooking and eating dinner at home more often.

With any resolution, no matter how “SMART” it may be, it is normal to experience obstacles. Rather than giving up or criticizing yourself, remember that habits develop over time and will take time to change. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect a behavior to disappear or change just because the clock strikes midnight and a new year begins. Use each obstacle as a learning experience and an opportunity to re-evaluate and perhaps modify your plan. It may not be realistic to get 4 home-cooked dinner meals on the table 52 weeks out of the year, and THAT’S OK! Don’t let discouragement related to statistics or previous failures rob you of achieving your resolution to care for yourself in a healthy way this year.

Oh…and don’t forget: You can make a resolution any time of year, not just January 1st!


I’d love to hear about your SMART resolutions for the year…send me an e-mail or share in the comments below. If you know someone who may need some encouragement or guidance in goal-setting, share this post or this clip from http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/iframe?pf_id=1&show_title=0&va_id=6154181&windows=1“>ABC 24’s Local Memphis Live with them!

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