How to Set a New Years Resolution (That’ll Actually Stick)

We’re all guilty of it. The New Years resolution that lasts a week or two.

But I don’t think the fact that the gym is always packed on New Years Day and empty again a few weeks later is because we’re all lazy dreamers. I think it’s because it’s really hard to set actionable goals.

Here’s a New Years resolution for all of us: Know exactly what success looks like.

When setting goals, envision success and then stop yourself and make it about ten times more specific. When does success take place? What is the result? What steps and deadlines will you need to make on the road to achieving this result? How will you know if success has taken place? How will you know if you’ve failed?

When setting goals, make them SMART goals. 

You may have heard the term SMART goals before — most likely when you’ve started a new job. SMART goals are generally accepted as the best way to lay out actionable objectives for the quarter, year, or next five years. But what’s to say you can’t apply this kind of goal setting to something like losing 10 pounds, or saying goodbye to terrible television, or learning how to code?

The New Years resolution is ripe for becoming a little bit smarter.

So that’s my challenge to you. If you’re going to go about setting a resolution or two, take the time to set them within the SMART framework. Here’s how:

Let’s use the example of setting the goal to complete a marathon in 2015.


Who, What, When, and Where? Defining the specifics of your goal is necessary before takeoff. This could be deciding not just that you are going to do a marathon sometime in the vague future, but deciding that you are going to complete the Seattle Marathon in November and then actually signing up for it.


How will you measure when your goal is reached? For your marathon, do you want to make a certain time or just cross the finish line in one piece? Again, you need to know what success looks like and how you can measure it. Success looks different for different people, so cater it for you.


Who is involved in the goal? Is it a solo project, or one that requires the work of a team? When I prepared for a marathon a few years back, this was planning out a training schedule and assigning myself weekly mileages. It was also keeping my mother up to date on my progress so she could, in turn, keep me accountable.


Here’s the clincher. Make sure you set a goal that is actually attainable. When training, I was sure to set a goal time that was a push, but still within my reach. I’m not fast, so setting the goal to qualify for a more elite marathon would not have been realistic for me.


Deadlines are great motivators. What sort of progress are you hoping to see by the end of this week? This month? When training for a marathon, you have a big deadline (the race date), but you should also have mini-deadlines along the way. By what date should you be able to train half the distance? Also, consider the time that you’ve given yourself and what else is happening in your life. Can you realistically devote every Sunday to training when you’re a rabid football fan?

Think these through. Write them down. Once you’ve outlined your goal with the SMART framework, you’re ready to get going on your goal. Good luck!


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