Setting New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

Written by Team Optimity

3 minute read 

I love this time of year. For me, the holidays are a time to truly “eat, drink, and be merry!” I seem to justify every unhealthy behaviour with “but it’s the holidays!” and every year I end up feeling the same way…not great. 

I’ve overindulged and then set a New Year’s resolution to be healthier starting January 1st (or January 3rd, or 4th, or 10th…you get the picture). How many of you have felt and done the same? Do you set a resolution and then do nothing about it (like I do) or stick with your resolution for two or three weeks and then return to old habits? The pattern is frustrating! 

It turns out that I am not alone with my failed New Year’s resolutions. Most Canadians set New Year’s Resolutions, and many fail to stick with them. According to a report by YouGov, the top 3 new year resolutions in Canada last year were: 1) exercise more, 2) save money, and 3) eat healthier. 

So this year, let’s try things a bit differently by thinking about and setting SMART New Year’s resolutions before January 1st. And while many resolutions involve making changes to our diet and physical activity levels, there are also other areas of our health that we can improve, so pick something that is important to you. 

So think of a goal that you want to achieve and follow the SMART steps to set a SMART New Year’s Resolution. 

SMART goals are: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-based

  1. Specific

Include the specific behaviour you want to perform. For instance, “run more,” “get fit,” or “be a better person” are NOT great goals as they are vague. If your goal is to become more active, it is better to create specific behaviour goals, such as walking for 30 minutes 5 days each week, or eating fruit instead of a cookie for your 3 pm snack each workday. This way you know exactly what you need to do to meet your goal.

  1. Measurable

Think about how you will measure your goal, so you know when you have achieved it. For example, the following goals are measurable: work your way up to running for 5km within a month, or to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, or to limit yourself to 2 alcoholic drinks or less per day. If you are interested in managing stress, your goal may be to use a day planner and cross off or add to your to-do list at the end of each day for 1 month. Check off the days you use your day planner on a calendar. A visual reminder of your progress, like days checked on a calendar, can be extra motivating.

  1. Achievable (or attainable)

Have a good think about whether or not you are capable of achieving your goal. For example, setting a goal to run a marathon when you are completely inactive will likely be difficult. But you can get there by setting smaller, achievable goals, like running for 30 minutes without stopping, and then add new goals as you accomplish this. 

  1. Realistic

Your goal needs to reflect your current life “situation” – consider your physical abilities, your time, your budget, and what support you have available. A goal of “cooking everything from scratch” may be lofty if you are a busy parent with a full-time job. A more realistic goal may be to “cook two dinners from scratch each week,” or perhaps even “plan my weekly meals before food shopping” might be a better place to start. This step of goal setting is crucial to get right, as most resolutions fail because people set unrealistic goals given their current situation. R can also stand for “rewarding” – make sure your goal is something you want to do (not something you think you should do).

  1. Time-based 

Your goal needs a deadline to be achieved. A great way to start is to set a long-term goal, then break this down into monthly, weekly, or even daily goals. You may have a long-term goal of “having a clean and tidy house.” Your monthly goals could involve a list of cleaning jobs to do each month, broken down into one or two jobs per week. Your daily goal could be “I will take 10 minutes at the end of each day to tidy clothes on the floor, put toys away, and remove any clutter from counter surfaces.” Setting short term goals to achieve the big picture will help you stay on track.

And finally: Write it down and tell someone! When you’ve said your goals aloud, someone may ask you about them! Think of this person as your personal goal keeper, they can help keep you accountable, and provide you with the necessary support along the way. 

There are many templates to use that can be found online to create SMART new year’s resolutions. Now, I’m going to share my goals with you, here it goes: 

Long-term goal: eat a healthier diet

Short-term goal: During the month of January, I am going to limit myself to two sweet treats or less per week

S – 1 sweet treat on Friday and Saturday only

M – 2 treats or less per week

A – Yes – I’m not cutting out treats altogether, which allows for some flexibility

R – Yes – I have the ability to do this by not buying treats and having healthy snacks on hand

T – The month of January, after which I will review and reassess my goals

Long-term goal: model appropriate screen behaviour 

Short-term goal: For the month of January, I am going to put my phone away (i.e. not look at it) when I am with my children. I will only check it in the morning before they are awake, after lunch when the little one is napping, and after they are in bed. Exceptions would be to answer a phone call (not a text!)

S – allowed to check phone morning/lunch/evening only

M – measure it by checking the days off on a calendar that I do this

A – Yes – I can still use my phone for important tasks, but not checking texts or social media

R – Yes – I have the ability to do this (not too many urgent texts or emails that can’t be ignored for a few hours) and it will be rewarding to focus on my kids

T – each day for the month of January, after which I will review and reassess my goals

Those are my resolutions, now it’s your turn. Comment below with your SMART New Year’s Resolutions to help inspire others. Together, we can ensure our goals stick!

For more tips on how to create a SMART New Year’s Resolution, click here.

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