The new year is a great time to reassess your life and set new goals, right? Well, sort of. Studies have shown that more than half of people who made a resolution have given up only one month into the New Year! The problem is, it’s really tough to give up bad habits and overly-ambitious goals can quickly lead to a searing sense of failure. If you’re having trouble staying motivated, or don’t even know where to begin, it’s not too late to try again. To make your goals actually stick this year, try some of these tips and tricks from psychologists and successful business owners.


The S.M.A.R.T. method is a great way to structure your resolution(s). It was originally developed for businesses and organisations, but can easily be applied to personal goals, too. Remember that it’s also preferable to focus on one goal (or related goals like diet and exercise) instead of trying to change every area of your life at once!  


S: Specific. Is your goal clearly defined? Psychologists have found that without a specific target, it’s much easier to lose your way and give up. So get specific: replace “get fit” with “be able to complete a 5k run 3 months from now.”  


M: Measurable. Make sure there are clear milestones, or you won’t see your progress. Measuring progress is a crucial way to stay motivated. Think “drop 5kg by March” instead of “lose weight.” This will allow you to break up a bigger goal into smaller, do-able pieces. Mentally, this makes goals much easier to achieve.  


A: Attainable. This may seem obvious, but make sure that your goal is reachable. There is a difference between challenging yourself and setting yourself up for failure with an impossible objective. Even with the best training, you realistically can’t expect to be able to run a marathon two months from now if you’ve been sitting on a couch for the last year. If you’re set on an ambitious goal, it may be worthwhile to check in with a relevant professional (dietician, personal trainer, financial planner, etc).  


R: Relevant. Is the goal you’ve set something you’re doing for yourself, or for others? If you’re more worried about getting a magazine-worthy beach bod than improving your general physical health, you may find yourself discouraged. Take an inventory of why you’ve chosen this particular goal. Shallow reasons tend to be poor motivators in the long term.


T: Timely. Make sure your goal(s) has a specific timeframe. Without dates, it’s hard to keep track of progress, which means it’s hard to hold yourself accountable. Having deadlines is a huge benefit that will help you stick to your goals. It may help to tie your goal to natural deadlines: if you’re trying to get your finances organised, make sure it’s done a month before taxes are due. If you’re trying to change your diet, activity level, or other behavior for the long-term, schedule a time every day to briefly journal about your progress.


It may seem silly or excessive to follow such an extensive set of “rules” for your resolution, but this method has been backed up by behavioral scientists. The more specific structure you have, the more likely you are to stay on track. Finally, instead of quantity of goals, remember to focus on quality. Then get SMART and enjoy the results you desire!


Author: Natalie Millis