Did you set lofty goals for the New Year only to fall back on old habits? Have your good intentions for a healthy 2017 begun to wane? Your friendly writer finally polished off the last of the holiday sweets, but I’m not waiting for next January to give it another try.

Like any goal in life, it is very difficult to achieve a healthy resolution that is vaguely defined. Ambiguous goals, such as I want to lose weight, get out debt, or get organized, quickly fall by the wayside and become goals for next year.

It’s time to get S.M.A.R.T. about the things we want to accomplish.

S = Specific   M = Measurable    A = Attainable   R = Realistic   T = Targeted

Your goal needs to be well defined. For example, instead of saying that you want to get in shape, you could be more specific by answering the five “W” questions:

  • What do I want to accomplish? (To lose weight, improve endurance)
  • Why is the goal important? (To live longer, feel better)
  • Who is involved? (Need a walking partner, nutritionist)
  • Where will this take place? (Close to home/work)
  • Which requirements and constaints do I face? (30 minutes/day, friend’s schedule)

“Getting in shape” is an important and worthwhile goal, but not very specific. A more specific goal would be “following the XYZ program for nine weeks to run a 5K in 30 minutes.”

Establish milestones for measuring progress toward your end goal and reward yourself along the way. For example, instead of focusing on losing 25 pounds, set interim targets of losing 5 pounds and treat yourself to something that will not jeopardize your end goal (buy a new pair of running shoes, go see a movie).

It is important to have goals that stretch us yet remain attainable. An attainable goal will usually answer the ‘How’ question of how the goal can be accomplished. It is when we identify those goals most important to us that we develop the attitudes, abilities and discipline needed to reach them.

A realistic goal must represent an objective you are both willing and able to pursue. You are the only one who can decide just how ambitious your goal should be. Your goal is probably realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished.

Goals need deadlines. Without a deadline, the goal is easy to put off to a later date. A goal that is set too close is not only unrealistic, it’s discouraging.

Think about your goals and how you can use the SMART outline to create a plan to finally achieve your New Year’s resolutions.

For more help on setting healthy goals and achieving them, visit these online resources.

This article was first published in the Winter 2014 edition of the Retiring Right newsletter. Click here to view other newsletters. Not receiving your newsletter, update your address by completing the Change of Address form.

Skip to content