New Year’s Goals: Not Resolutions

On February 26, 2023

SMART GOALS for 2023

Happy February! Now that we are almost two full months into the new year, how are your New Years Resolutions?  Many of us make the changing of the year a time of reflection and hope for better in the next year. However, some of us have given up the idea of resolutions because we don’t follow through. 

A study by Norcross et Al. found that 19% of individuals kept their New Year’s Resolutions over a two year period. Let’s dive in to increase your odds of making positive change. 

Goals instead of resolutions. 

My friend’s New Year’s resolutions sounded like “I want to be healthier”, “I want to be more social”, and “I want 2023 to be a better year than 2022”.  One problem with these goals is that at the end of 2023, how will we know if they met their goals. What does it mean to be healthier, social, and better? How will they work on it? 

One of the best ways to meet a goal is to define the goal, and think out what actions we need to take to get to that goal. Let’s look at one strategy of defining goals: SMART goals. 


What are SMART goals? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Let’s break that down using the resolution “I want to be healthier”. 


Specific: “healthier” is not specific. What is healthier? Healthier can have a multitude of meanings, from various diets, exercise, keeping blood sugar in check, etc. For this friend it’s more exercising.

Measurable: Now that we have gotten somewhat more specific, let’s look at how we will measure the goal. If we do not take steps to make the goal measurable, then how will we know if we meet the goal? Let’s look back at my friend’s goal: “more exercising”. How will we measure that? Will it be more time spent walking, more movement, or only more minutes in the gym? Would cleaning the house count? We decided more exercising meant more time spent engaging in a workout of either yoga, strength training, or cardiovascular exercise. We discussed instead of “more time”, setting a goal time such as 150 minutes a week doing either yoga, strength training, or cardiovascular exercise. We discussed logging the time spent in exercise using her account through the Fitbit app (any fitness tracker would work). 

Achievable: It is import to ask yourself “Is this goal achievable?”. When talking with my friend and her history of working out, we decided that 150 minutes a week is not achievable as they are currently working out 10 minutes a week. We reduced the goal to 60 minutes a week to start and build up over time. If goals are not achievable, we are likely to give up early. We also need to ensure we have the equipment or resources needed to accomplish goals. If we set a goal to go to the gym, but can’t afford the gym, we are setting ourself up for failure. 

Relevant: One of the import questions to consider when making new goals is how is this goal relevant to you. In this question we are asking about one’s motivation toward the goal. For some people the question of relevance will change the goal entirely, and for others it will point out the motivation. For my friend, working out more minutes per week is relevant so that she can get in shape and play with her kids without losing her breath. 

Time-Bound: It is important to put a small time limit on a goal in order to not lose focus. Even if this means reducing the amount of change made. One example is to take the goal “to run a marathon in a year” and change it to being “able to run 1.5 miles in one week”. Then creating a new goal after the first goal is accomplished. For my friend, we changed the goal to working out at least 45 minutes a week for two weeks. 


Final goal: I will work out doing either yoga, strength training, or cardiovascular exercise, at least 45 minutes a week for two weeks, as logged in the Fitbit app, in order to get in shape and play with my kids without losing my breath. 


Now that we have seen how helpful SMART goals are we are ready to write our own New Year’s goals!

– Jennifer Parks, Psy.D.

About The Author

Dr. Jennifer Parks

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