5 Ways to Make New Year's Resolutions You'll Actually Keep

Goal sign at stadiumIt’s that time of year again, when everyone starts looking forward to a new, fresh year, and a new, fresh start. And with clean slates come the lists of New Year's Resolutions. It’s a good time to look back at the past year, think about what you accomplished, and make plans for what you want to do in 2014.

How many of us, though, set our resolutions, follow through for about a month, then get sidetracked by life come February? Maybe it’s not that you lack willpower -- maybe it's simply that you’re setting the wrong goals.


I’ve read a lot of articles recently on goal setting for the New Year. A lot of them have had great advice on how to set yourself up for success in achieving your resolutions. There was one piece of advice that stuck in my mind, though, which was to assess whether the goal you’re setting is really what you want. 

Being a fitness professional, it’s easy to become inspired by a peer’s fitness goal. I often read about people attempting triathlons, or ultra-marathons, and in the back of my mind I think briefly, "Is that what I should be doing, too?" Then I snap out of it and realize I have zero interest in running an ultra-marathon, or attempting a triathlon. There’s no "I SHOULD be ... " in setting goals. There’s only, "I HAVE to ... " You have to have the drive to succeed at your goal, because it is exactly what you want.

What if your goal is something more general, like “I want to lose weight,” or, “I want to work out more this year”? So long as those goals are what you want for yourself (and NOT because someone else thinks it’s right for you), then they’re definitely attainable. All you need to do is rephrase those general goals, so that you’re giving yourself the best chance for success.  

Smart goals outline on paper

How do you rephrase them? Think SMART. No, really, think S.M.A.R.T. Goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” you can rephrase that goal to say, “I want to lose x number of pounds (Specific and Measurable), which is a number that is healthy for me (Attainable and Realistic), and I want to do this at a rate of x number of pounds per month by the end of 2014 (Time-Based).” Similarly, instead of, “I want to work out more,” you would say, “I want to work out at least three times every week (Specific and Measurable), which is what I can do based on my work hours/childcare/free time (Attainable and Realistic), every week in 2014 (Time-Based).”

When it comes to weight loss, your doctor should be your first resource for setting a realistic, and attainable weight loss goal. If you work with a personal trainer, or have the option to do a free assessment with one at your gym, then you can make a weight loss goal even more specific by finding out your body fat percentage, and track fat loss rather than just weight loss. Working with a trainer, or at least doing strength assessments with one before you start a fitness plan, is also a great way to gauge base fitness and strength levels if your goal is to gain strength or muscle.

My SMART goal is to follow a set training plan (specific) for a half marathon I am running in June (time-based), and take eight minutes off my personal best time (measurable, realistic, and attainable ... If I work my butt off!). 

What are your goals for 2014? Can you rephrase them to be SMART goals?


Images (top to bottom) via Kevan/Flickr; Carly Pizzani

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