How to Set New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

Sports Woman's legs in running movement

As New Year’s Eve approaches, many people are thinking about their resolutions for 2017. They start out determined and strong, but can sometimes fade quickly. Has that happened to you? If so, don’t blame yourself. The fault may lie with your resolutions.

This year, make your resolutions S.M.A.R.T. Set goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Actionable
  • Realistic, and which have a
  • Time-frame

Doing so may help you succeed in keeping your resolutions. Here are some tips for S.M.A.R.T. weight-management resolutions. But these tips can be adapted for any resolutions you may want to make.

Specific: Too often resolutions are vague goals. For instance, you might want to “lose weight.” But exactly how much weight do you want to lose? Weigh yourself to find out what your weight is now. Then talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight might be for you. Subtract your goal weight from your current weight and you’ll have a specific number. If that number is too high, start with a small fraction of it. Studies have found that setting specific goals may help you better manage your weight.

Measurable: Suppose your goal is to “get rid of your gut.” How will you know when you have reached your goal? How will you know if you’re even making headway? Your eyes may not be the best or most accurate judge. It would be better to measure your waist and note the number. Talk with your doctor about a healthy waist circumference for you. Then measure yourself once a week and keep track of each measurement. You could use a journal, an online tool, or smartphone app. If the number shrinks, you’re on the right track. Being able to measure and track your goals can help boost your motivation and help you see how well you are moving toward a goal.

Attainable: Your goal should be something you can attain. Having zero body fat is not possible or healthy. Trying to be as fit as a professional athlete is too lofty of a goal for many. But eating a healthy breakfast, such as oatmeal and blueberries, or an egg with whole grain toast, for the next 2 weeks is something you can do. So is working out for 30 minutes each day for a month. Tailor your goal to suit you, your needs, your likes and dislikes, and your lifestyle. Then take a series of small steps to help you reach your goal.

Realistic: If you haven’t been active, don’t set out to run a marathon next month. Take into account your current fitness level. That might mean a goal to walk 30 minutes a day or a goal to train for a 5k. Stay committed and slowly build your activity level. The same holds true for food. Don’t try to change all your eating habits in a day. Start with a realistic step like cutting out desserts during the week. Then move on to other goals like eating out only once a week or eating smaller portions.

Time-frame: Open-ended goals are not ideal. A deadline can help you buckle down and get serious. So set a start and end date for your goal and keep the time frame short. A week or two should do. Reaching the end date doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re done. If you’ve accomplished your goal, it’s a good time to set a new goal. If you haven’t reach your goal, it’s a good time to figure out what went wrong.

For instance, your goal might be to lose one pound in one week. At the end of the week, see if you’ve reached your goal. If you have, congratulate yourself. Think about what worked. Then, set a new goal—maybe to lose one more pound the next week. If you haven’t reached your goal, try to figure out what went wrong. Then, try again next week, working hard to avoid the pitfalls from the previous week.

Start the new year on the right foot with better, smarter resolutions. The right resolutions can help you make real progress on your healthy living goals.