Setting SMART goals: how to make your resolutions stick

Dr. Sheri Nsamenang, psychologist, Children’s Exercise and Nutrition Centre, McMaster Children’s Hospital

With the new year comes enthusiasm around self-improvement. New Year’s resolutions are fun to make, but many people find it difficult to maintain them throughout the year.

Resolutions are often broad and vague, which makes them hard to achieve long term. Instead of vague resolutions, focus on creating good habits. To do this, you need to set SMART goals for the habits, plan the goals, act on your goals, and review your goals.

Make sure you celebrate each step towards your goal by rewarding yourself in a way that doesn’t throw you off track.

To set SMART goals, identify habits you want to create, modify, or improve on, and reasons why you want to practise those habits. Once you’ve decided what you want to accomplish, you have to keep yourself on track. Tell people about your goals so they can help you to stay accountable. Use technology, like a calendar on your smartphone, to set reminders. Prioritize the goals, starting with small goals that are steps to achieving your bigger goals.

Be ready to act on your goals and ask for help along the way. Teaming up with an exercise buddy or checking in with a friend is a good way to keep yourself on track. Make sure you celebrate each step towards your goal by rewarding yourself in a way that doesn’t throw you off the wagon. That could be treating yourself to a massage or purchasing a piece of clothing. For kids, activities like a sleepover with a friend are great rewards.

SMART goals help you stay motivated, focused, responsible, and are a proven way to succeed at creating good habits.

It’s important to review your goals to check on your progress and modify them as needed.

Why is it important to set SMART goals? SMART goals help you stay motivated, focused, responsible, and are a proven way to succeed at creating good habits.

Parents can help their children with goal setting by acting as role models, giving them choices, providing encouragement, focusing on applauding effort and successes, and collaboratively problem solving around challenges.

So, what does a SMART goal look like? Check out this short video to learn what to include in your goals:

SMART goals are:

Specific- goals should be clear and precise

Measurable- you should be able to tell when you’ve accomplished your goal

Achievable- set goals within your reach

Realistic- know how you will follow through and break goals into smaller steps

Timely- set a definite timeline for achieving your goals

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