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Notebook with notes about what SMART goals are

Set SMART Goals to Succeed

Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Let’s look at how to set SMART goals and be part of the 10 percent that succeed.

We’ve just kicked off 2020. Televisions are streaming advertisements for the latest and greatest exercise equipment and social media feeds are full of friends chasing their 2020 goals. If you started the New Year with a resolution or three, how’s that going? Chances are, over the next few weeks your goals will sizzle. Statistics reveal that only about 20 percent of people actually achieve what they resolve to do in the New Year.

If you find yourself in that camp, revising your resolutions to make them SMART goals can be the magic you need to achieve success. SMART is an acronym that gives you a roadmap for meeting your goals, making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Let’s break those down.

Infographic describing what SMART Goals means

SMART Goals Explained


“Get healthier” can mean all kinds of things — lose weight, eat more vegetables or lower blood pressure, just to name a few. But even those are too broad. Your goal needs to be specific so you know what you’re aiming for.


When you can measure your efforts, you can stay on top of your progress. “Eating more vegetables” becomes measurable by specifying that you’ll eat four servings a day.


Be realistic when you’re setting your goals. You want to find the sweet spot between setting yourself up for success and pushing yourself to improve. If vegetables haven’t crossed your lips since your mother fed you carrots from a jar, vowing to move to a plant-only diet right out of the gate is a pretty significant jump in vegetable consumption. You could consider starting to be plant-only two specific days of the week. Hit one milestone then reach for another.


Make sure your goal is practical for you and your circumstances. Vowing to exercise every morning before work may set you up to fail if that means you’ll have to get up at 4 a.m. to get your workout in before getting you and kids out the door. Knowing you could walk during your kids’ soccer practice three days a week is a more realistic way to hit your exercise goal.


Give yourself a timeframe. With no end in sight, there’s always tomorrow to start and get serious about hitting your goal. A timeframe — by the wedding, by July 1 — gives your goal a sense of urgency and helps keep you accountable. Consider setting goals in smaller increments to bump up the time to complete. The sense of achievement early on will give you the momentum to reach your big goals.

Examples of SMART Goals

The SMART approach to setting goals works for anything you want to achieve. Here are a few examples to show how SMART goals help make changes that get you where you want to go:

Nutritional SMART goal:

  • I will eat four servings of vegetables every day for the next three weeks.
  • I will pack my lunch 3 out of 5 days for the next month.
  • I will meal prep each Sunday for six weeks.

Exercise SMART goal:

  • I will walk or run 10,000 steps six days a week until April 1.
  • I will work out three days a week for six weeks.
  • I will try one new workout a month for six months.

Life balance SMART goal:

  • I will turn off my phone when I get home from work until the kids go to bed during the school year.
  • I will write one thing I’m thankful for each day for one month.
  • I will get seven hours of sleep each night for one week.
  • I will schedule one date night month with my husband between now and July anniversary.

And there’s one more step: reward yourself when you reach your goal! Treat yourself to something in line with what you’ve been working toward — new workout gear, or a movie out with the kids, for example.


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