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5 Ways to Set Better Goals for the New Year

Image by Zandria Ross from Pixabay

“New year, new me” is a phrase we commonly hear as we close out the year and look forward to the next. We often start the year with the best of intentions to create new habits and let go of old ones that no longer fit. However, as the weeks go by, we can hit a ‘wall’ and feel frustrated with our lack of progress.
As challenging as this can be, it’s a common experience when we make goals. However, we can set ourselves up for success by keeping a few things in mind when planning out what we want to accomplish this year.
Using the acronym SMART (a brief history is linked below)1, we can really reflect on what our goals will look like in practice, and give us a way to keep track of our progress.


What exactly is it you want to accomplish? Having a vague goal of ‘being healthier this year’ can be difficult to keep track of! Creating clear goals helps us determine what it is we want to accomplish and what steps we can take to get there. Consider the who, what, when, where, and why of your goal, such as, ‘starting today I will do weekly walks around my neighbourhood to build healthy habits’.


How will you know you’re making progress? Having a way to keep track of progress can help us stick with it by letting us see exactly how much we have accomplished, as well as how close we are to reaching our goal. For example, counting how many times we go out walking or how far we walk in a week.


Is this something that is ‘doable’? It’s important to set goals that we feel we can do. Starting small, such as ‘go for a walk twice a week’ or ‘start meatless Mondays’ helps create stepping stones to accomplishing larger goals.


What supports and resources do you have to meet your goal? Knowing what resources are available to us helps us plan ahead, creating an easier path to success. Resources can be supportive people, technology, or practical supports, like a walking buddy or comfortable running shoes.


When will you reach your goal? Having a time frame in mind is a great way to measure progress and keep us motivated to push forward, such as monthly check-ins for a year. Knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel creates forward momentum, helping us continue making small accomplishments toward our final goal.



Although this is a helpful framework, using SMART as a guide rather than a rigid set of rules is key. Being kind to ourselves when things don’t go as smoothly as we hoped, as well as taking the chance to celebrate our successes as they occur can give us a sense of accomplishment and pride in our hard work. Planning is only one step to success!




Lisa Gust, MSc, is a Registered Psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists and specializes in the areas of career and academic life transitions, as well as many others. For more information on Lisa and her work click here to link to her full bio page.



1 Haughey, D. (2014, December 13). A brief history of SMART goals. Project Smart.