SMART goal resolution image

So you set a resolution (or two) for 2014. You have great intentions and really want to make this the year you make that resolution a reality. You’re not alone in your attempts at change.

According to Statistic Brain, 45 percent of Americans set a New Year’s resolution, yet less than half of those individuals will actually keep their resolution past June.

Maybe the problem with accomplishing a resolution has less to do with our ability to follow through on a goal and more to do with the kind of goal we set.

Spending less money, getting organized and losing weight are the top three resolutions Americans set Tuesday. It’s likely you also set a similar resolution. But if your resolution is as vague as the above examples, you may have failed before you even began.

Make sure your resolution is SMART

If you want to make sure you will succeed with your resolution, make sure it meets specific criteria. For more than 30 years the business and management communities have used the mnemonic SMART to describe the qualities a goal should have to position one for success. This same criteria can and should apply to our New Year’s resolution, or any other goal we set in our life.

S — Specific

Target a specific area for improvement. Losing weight is the No. 1 resolution Americans will set in 2014. But just saying, “I will lose weight” is not enough.

M — Measurable

It’s really important to make sure you can quantify what success is in relation to this goal. “I will lose 50 pounds” is a measurable goal.

A — Attainable or achievable

Ask yourself if the goal you have set is achievable. Your goal should cause you to stretch your limits but not be out of your reach. Do you really have the time and resources it takes to lose 50 pounds? Should your goal be to lose 20 pounds instead?

R — Relevant or realistic

The fourth criteria in a SMART goal is in place to make sure you choose a goal that deserves your immediate attention. Is losing weight an important, relevant goal? You may also want to ask yourself what resources are necessary to accomplish this goal.

T — Time-bound

Most important, set a deadline or target date for your goal. This is also a great opportunity to break a large goal (like lose 50 pounds) into several smaller, manageable goals.

How much weight can I lose in six months? Or six weeks?

Rather than setting a basic New Year’s resolution like “lose weight,” put it through the SMART goal process and create a resolution you can really stand behind: “Lose 10 pounds by April 1, 2014.”

Your why

It’s also important to understand your purpose for setting the goal or resolution in the first place. My friend and colleague Michelle McCullough has a brilliant spin on SMART goals.

McCullough is a serial entrepreneur and business coach. When teaching this principle to her clients, she adds the letter “Y” to SMART goals — making them SMARTY goals. This extra letter stands for “Your why.” McCullough believes without an understanding of your purpose and desire (or your why) behind setting a goal, you will struggle with achieving the goal.

What is the reason you set your New Year’s resolution in the first place? Continuing with our previous example, why do you even want to lose weight? The feelings those answers stir will be the motivation that carries you through to the finish line when life creates hurdles between you and the realization of your resolution.

This column originally published in Family Matters on