Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Key Health

Set smarter goals for yourself this year

If you want to actually keep those New Year's resolutions, here's the experts' way.

If you want to keep those New Year's resolutions, break them down into three-month goals and apply the SMART methodology.
If you want to keep those New Year's resolutions, break them down into three-month goals and apply the SMART methodology.
Courtesy image
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
  • Share

We’ve all heard the "new year, new you" propaganda. A chance to push the reset button on life and get a kind of do-over. We’ve all been there, tried that, and we know life just doesn’t work that way. So why do we continue to make those New Year’s resolutions? And is there anything we can do to make them stick?

I’d say we make those resolutions because what we’re trying to achieve is important to us. We’re taking any opportunity to set up a structure that will help. The trouble is that most of the time we either set up the wrong structure or one that’s so ambitious and difficult that we can’t sustain it long enough to reach our goals.

So what’s the right strategy for success this year? 

What I’m about to propose will work for any set of goals. But since I’m a health coach, I’m going to start with a story that will show you a formula I use with my clients.    

You go to your annual checkup, and your doc says: “Whoops, your blood pressure is up, and you’re 15 pounds heavier than last year. I can give you some meds, but you’ll have to lose weight and get into shape, OK?

You say, “OK.” You walk out. Then what?

Join a gym? Hire a personal trainer? Go on a diet? You might do one or several of these things because, after all, it’s a new year and a new you.

So you try something. But how long before you throw up your hands and say, “Ugh, I got started, and now I’m off the track just like last year.”

What went wrong? Maybe nothing, except you might not have been psychologically ready to take those steps.

For any change there is a process. One of the models I use is the transtheoretical model of behavior change developed by psychologist Dr. James O. Prochaska.

There are five stages:

  1. Precontemplation: Going along unaware of a need for, or not wanting a change.
  2. Contemplation: Recognizing a need to do something to improve your situation and considering making some sort of change.
  3. Preparation: Doing some research, making small changes, or at least thinking about what you’re going to do to help yourself.
  4. Action: Actively making lifestyle changes.
  5. Maintenance: Having made changes, maintaining the status of your goals.

All too often we jump from contemplation to action without being ready for the change, which is what happens with most of our New Year’s resolutions. It can feel like getting off a plane in Antarctica wearing shorts and a T-shirt. You wanted to be there but you weren’t ready for what that change would be like, and what you’d need to do to stay there comfortably.

Here's the formula that can help you define what’s most important to you, what you really envision for yourself. And by answering these questions, you brainstorm and formulate what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

  • So ask yourself: What is your wellness vision? This vision can be about health or anything else. 
  • Now, what’s motivating you? Why do you want to make this change and why is it so important to do it this year?
  • What strengths can you draw on to help realize this vision? It can be anything you’re good at. Maybe you’re organized. Or have family or friends who will support your goals.
  • What are your challenges? Stuff like procrastination, losing focus and getting discouraged.
  • What are the strategies that will help you realize the vision and meet your challenges? If you procrastinate or lose interest easily, maybe you want to partner with a like-minded friend. You can keep each other motivated. Maybe you want to get in shape, lose some weight, learn to sail, cook like a professional. This really does work with any goal.

Then there’s time. Some theoretical physicists say that time does not exist. It’s just a human construct based on the rotation of the earth, broken into 24 segments. 

OK, but how we manage those segments is up to us. Time management can mean the difference between success and failure. 

Start with the 21/90 rule. It takes about 21 days to make a habit and about 90 days to make it a part of your lifestyle. So, set three-month goals. 

Start with just one that is your highest priority, the most important thing you want to spend your time on, the main goal of your vision. Break this three-month goal down into SMART goals. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. For example, I’m going to make time to take a brisk walk for 45 minutes, three days a week. A series of small SMART goals helps you create the habits that will lead you to permanent lifestyle changes.

It’s rare when anyone succeeds at anything right out of the gate. So if you fall off the wagon one day, just climb back on board the next. And remember you’re not a failure, you’re a success story in progress.



Mirabai Holland

Mirabai Holland is CEO of NuVue LLC, a health education and video production company. She is a certified health coach, exercise physiologist and wellness consultant for Manatee County government employees and has a private practice. Her wellness programs are implemented in hospitals, fitness facilities, resorts and corporations worldwide. She is also an artist who believes creativity enhances health. Contact her at [email protected].

Latest News