Are Your New Year’s Resolutions SMART?

January 10th, 2010

          If you’re like most people, you ushered in the New Year a few pounds heavier and with feelings of guilt, frustration and even a little depression. And those with diabetes might have blood glucose levels that are out of control. “I can’t believe I let this happen” you think, as you struggle to put on those slacks that just won’t zip up. Your second thought is about resolutions. You resolve to eat better, exercise more, lose some weight and get your diabetes under control.

          But as you rush into those resolutions, be careful not to fall into what many health professionals call resolution dissolution. One survey suggests that 70 percent of people keep their New Year’s resolutions into February and only 20 percent maintain their resolutions into June or longer. People who fail at keeping New Year’s resolutions fail because they make them too broad. If you bite off more than you can chew, you’re likely to get frustrated–and frustration is the first step toward giving up. Instead you need to break your big goal down into smaller “bites” – more do-able steps that will gradually lead to success.

          You should also make sure your goals are smart – or S.M.A.R.T.                                                                                                             

S.M.A.R.T. is a commonly used acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, reasonable and timely—and helps you determine whether your goals are realistic and reachable.

Specific—A specific goal will provide answers to the following:

  •   Who is involved?
  •   What exactly do I want to accomplish?
  •   Where will the action take place?
  •   When?
  •   Which conditions are needed to accomplish this goal?
  •   Why do I want to accomplish this goal?

For example, “control my diabetes” is a general goal. “I will check my blood sugars two hours after each meal at least three days per week,” is more specific.  It’s also easier to measure than a broad, complex goal.


Measurable—Define goals you can measure. A measurable goal will provide answers to how much? how many? how will I know when the goal is accomplished? The better able you are to assess your progress, the better you can track your progress.   “If you say, I will work out for 30 minutes three times weekly,” you’ll be able to measure your progress just by marking the calendar.


Attainable—Your goal should be something you feel you have a chance at accomplishing. It may take some effort to reach, of course, but the goal shouldn’t be extreme. If you set the bar too high, you are setting yourself up for failure. Say, for instance, you tell yourself, “I will check my blood sugars before and two hours after each meal every day for the next six months.” That means that if you miss one occasion of checking your blood sugars over the next six months you will feel that you’ve failed.  A more attainable goal may be, “I will check my blood sugars two hours after each meal at least three days per week.


Realistic—A realistic goal is one based on your current situation. How much time do you have to devote to it?  Do you have everything you need to enable you to succeed? Is it flexible enough that it allows for unexpected changes in your routine?  “I will exercise weekly on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 7 p.m.” is not a flexible goal. What happens if you have to go to a meeting and can’t work out at 7 o’clock on Wednesday?  Build some flexibility into your commitment. “I will work out three times weekly for 30 minutes” is both flexible and realistic.


Timely—A goal should have a starting point and an ending point, with enough time in between in which to realistically achieve the goal. The reason for a start date is obvious; you’ve got to start sometime. But the end date is important, too.  If your goal is to lose 10 pounds, you want to give yourself enough time to do it.  In this case, trying to do it too quickly will be unhealthy—and, again, you may be setting yourself up for failure and the disappointment that comes with it.     

          Don’t give yourself too many goals at once; it can be overwhelming to make that much change. Instead, select those that you feel ready to address or that are most important, and work on them. It may be that you start with only one or two goals.  When you’ve met them, you can always add more.

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