SMART New Years Resolutions

New Years Resolutions bear the reputation of often being made and then unfulfilled.  January is a month in which many persons begin a new health trend such as losing weight or quitting smoking, or identify a more personal goal such as promising to find more time for the family.   Completing these new goals remains connected with the motivation and the ability to follow through on the intentions. 


George Doran and Peter Drucker, Management Theorists from the 1980’s, are frequently cited as the originators of the SMART goal concept used in many business settings for annual performance reviews.  SMART goals are created to meet the following criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.


  • Who is involved, what is to be accomplished and why the goal is important


  • Establishing the standards for how the goal will be achieved.


  • Ensuring that the established goals can realistically be achieved.


  • Ensuring that the goal appears to be worthwhile to set


  • Identifying the target date for the goal to be achieved.


So let’s apply SMART standards to the goal of losing weight identified at the beginning of the blog article.  SMART goals associated with weight loss could be:  “I plan to lose fifteen pounds by the end of March to comply with my physician’s recommendation to lose weight by exercising for a minimum of 45 minutes five days a week, limiting desserts to once per week, and bringing a planned meal to work each day rather than ordering lunch at the building cafeteria or a nearby restaurant.”

Determining whether the goals meet SMART standards often relies on true self-reflection.  In this case, the person plans to accomplish the loss of fifteen pounds to meet doctor’s orders; if the person is in thorough agreement with the physician’s recommendations, then why the goal is important has been established such that the Specific criteria is met.   The three methods for weight loss (exercise, minimizing desserts and bringing lunch to work) demonstrate how the overall weight loss goal will be achieved meeting the Measurable criteria. 

Determining whether the goals are Attainable again rely on true self-reflection.   Can the goal-setter get to the gym five days a week or is there an alternative form of exercise (walking or running close to home) that may be more realistic?   Imposing limits on desserts is certainly a strong intention but may require further clarification such as “rather than eating desserts, I will limit snacks to fruits and vegetables” to ensure the goal meets Attainable criteria.  Fifteen pounds over the course of thirteen weeks is certainly realistic. 

The Relevance criterion is subject to interpretation.   Engaging your spouse or partner’s opinion about the goal is one way to determine if the goals really do matter as they will likely support the efforts needed to achieve the goal.   However, self-reflection drives the criteria and in this case, weight loss to improve health is certainly worthwhile.  The Timely criterion was established by setting the end of March to achieve the intended weight loss.  

Clients working with clinicians often establish a treatment plan that is focused on achieving certain outcomes or goals while regularly meeting with the clinician over a certain period of time to review progress.  I use SMART goals both professionally and personally.   As 2014 begins, I encourage you to ensure that any New Years Resolutions are done with SMART criteria.  Cheers to a wonderful year!