Start Your Year With ‘SMART’ Goals

Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has been filled with uncertainty. But it’s a new year, vaccines are rolling out, and you may be ready for a little optimism. Why not start the new year with something you can control? Give yourself a boost mentally and physically by setting a “SMART” new year’s resolution.

“Resolutions provide us with goals and purpose in our lives,” said Anthony Cirillo, an expert and advocate in aging and healthcare, in U.S. News & World Report. He added, “Rush University has conducted studies that show people who view life with a sense of purpose are two to four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.”

We know what you may be thinking: New year’s resolutions don’t work. The thing about resolutions is that we often make them too big or too vague – which sets us up for failure. We might say, “I’m going to get into shape” or “I’m going to learn to speak French.” Both are great goals, but they’re big and not very specific, which means that even when we’re working on them, we can get off track and become discouraged. We don’t want that in 2021!

To make your resolutions stick, try borrowing a trick from the business world: Set goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound). With this simple formula you can create resolutions that are reasonable and achievable. Here’s how it works:

  • Specific: Saying you want to get into shape is a good start, but what does it mean? A specific goal would be something like, “By March, I will be able to climb two flights of stairs without getting winded” or “By the end of the year, I will be able to run one mile.”
  • Measurable: As they say, you can’t manage what you don’t measure! If you want to learn French, for example, how will you measure your successes and progress? You could tackle this by saying “In January I will learn five basic French phrases.” Having intermediate wins to celebrate will keep you motivated.
  • Achievable: This is where “reasonable” comes in. For example, if you haven’t exercised much recently because of pandemic-related restrictions, take that into account when creating a fitness goal. Is a goal of running one mile reasonable within one month – or more like three?
  • Relevant. Your goals should make sense for you and your lifestyle. If you plan to learn French, what materials will you need, and where will you get them? Can you learn online, or hire an online tutor?
  • Timebound. Set specific dates for achieving both your big goal and any smaller goals you want to set along the way. This is really the first step in reaching any goal. And if you miss a “deadline,” celebrate what you have accomplished and adjust your timeline.


The point of a new year’s resolution is to improve ourselves in some way – so remember to give yourself a pat on the back for your optimism and motivation. When your plan isn’t working, readjust. Celebrate small wins and accomplishments.

(And remember, please talk to your doctor first before you begin a new exercise plan.)

Here’s to a great new year!