How to Set SMARTER Goals

As they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish. And you deserve to give yourself more than just wishful thinking when it comes to fitness.
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smart goals

It’s a new year, and that means resolutions are in full swing. If some version of “get healthier” is at the top of your list, you’re in good company. According to a new poll from Marist College in New York, “being a better person” and “weight loss” share the top spot as 2018’s most popular New Year’s resolution. Additionally, “exercising more” and “eating healthier” each came in at 9 percent. It seems the “new year, new you” philosophy is holding strong.

Yet, according to U.S. News, approximately 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. Does that mean the odds are simply stacked against you and you should quit now? No way. But it does mean you’ll have to do more than announce a vague resolution on Facebook if you want to see results.

“One of the most common mistakes when we set goals is that we make them open-ended with no time limit or specific result attached to them,” says Linda Lindström, in-house behavior strategist at Lifesum and co-founder at Beteendelabbet (The Swedish Behavior Lab). “For example, ‘live more healthily’ is a very abstract and complex goal for our brain to act upon. As a result, it really just becomes a statement of what we’d like to achieve rather than actually targeting what behavior is going to change our lifestyle. What a good goal needs is clarity, simplicity and to measure the success in achieving it.”

As they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish. And you deserve to give yourself more than just wishful thinking in 2018.


The SMART method of goal setting is based on the following acronym of principles that will help you set a clear and achievable goal that will increase your likelihood of success:

Specific: Target a certain behavior. It should be clear and easy to understand.

Measurable: Quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.

Attainable: Make sure you have enough time and resources to achieve your goal.

Realistic: State what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.

Timely: Specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

So how does this directly apply to your resolutions? “In the beginning of the new year, we are often very motivated and eager to improve our health and fitness,” Lindström says. “This state of mind is great, but sometimes it makes us overconfident in our abilities. We set unrealistic expectations that don’t fit into our everyday lives. Then, when life happens and our motivation starts to fluctuate, our unrealistic goal is what really leads us to hit the wall of failure. Going through the SMART method helps you set more realistic goals and expectations.”

Practice Round

The more you break down your goal, the more likely you will reach it. For example, goals such as “get healthy” or “get stronger” are too broad and general. Here are two examples of resolutions that might be on your list and how to break them down into SMART goals:


Specific: I will lose weight by counting calories and eating healthier food using help from a weight-loss app.

Measurable: I will, on average, eat X calories a day.

Attainable: With an intake of X calories a day, I will lose weight in a sustainable healthy pace for my size.

Realistic: I’m gonna allow myself to deviate from my daily calorie goal twice a week because I live a hectic life. I have taken this into account in my realistic weight goal of Y pounds.

Timely: I will reach my goal in Z weeks.


Specific: I will do X push-ups each weekday morning.

Measurable: I will track and test how many push-ups I’m able to do every weekend.

Attainable: I know I have trouble remembering new routines. In order to remember my goal, I will put a Post-it on my fridge so I see it every morning before breakfast.

Realistic: Today, I can manage Y push-ups, so I will start doing Y*3 sets of push-ups every weekday before breakfast. I will then increase every week with Y+2*3.

Timely: I will reach my goal in Z weeks.

Now, Make ’Em Even SMART-ER

“Two more things we haven’t mentioned that are important on the journey toward reaching our goals is to make it enjoyable and rewarding,” Lindström says. “So let’s elongate the SMART acronym to add two more principles.”

Enjoyable: Make sure that the changes you make are tasty, fun or easy to master. If you find your journey enjoyable, you are more likely to stick with it.

Rewarding: Reaching goals is rewarding, but it could take some time. To help keep yourself motivated, try rewarding small wins. For example, you can map out more action-orientated goals as milestones. When you achieve it, reward yourself with something that won’t derail your progress (like a massage or a new pair of running shoes — not a gallon of ice cream).

Do you feel SMARTER now? Then go out there and make 2018 one for the record books. You got this!   

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