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Tiger Toning.“I feel almost lame setting a weight-loss goal as a New Year’s resolution. How do I avoid the trap that plagues so many and actually accomplish my New Year’s resolution?” – The 99% of Resolution Setters

It seems quite cliché to write a New Year’s resolution article in a health column, but it’s a good question and is probably one a lot of people are asking. So, I yield my column to the topic of goal setting and how to genuinely achieve what you set out to do.

Firstly, let’s forget this is New Year’s. We set goals all the time and fall for the same traps as those resolutions we pledged to keep. The one thing I will say on New Year’s specifically is that when setting resolutions, keep in mind they must be realistic. You won’t have the fresh start mindset all year long, so you need to put a plan in place that can withstand the inevitable return to your regular ways. This leads me into (drum roll, please) SMART goal setting, the key to planning sensible goals.

Without further ado, here are the five components of the SMART goal strategy.


SPECIFIC: Make your goals specific rather than grandiose statements which could mean anything, like “I want to be healthier” or “I want to look like that 30-year-old playing a teenager in the latest cancelled show on the CW network.” (That example was actually pretty specific, wasn’t it?)

Make your goal something concrete. Maybe it’s a number on the scale, something you want to remove from your diet, or perhaps it’s several specific goals that have an overarching theme to it? The first step is having a plan, which is important if you want to achieve anything.


MEASURABLE: Related to the above, you want your goal to have an achievement target or at least the ability to track progress. If your goal is specific, it will likely be easier to include a measurable component—allowing you to watch yourself improve. Don’t let it become an obsession, though. This is especially important with scales. Weight can fluctuate for many reasons other than fat. Look for trends and don’t over-analyze it.


ACHIEVABLE: This is probably the most important aspect of SMART goal setting. You need to make sure what you are aiming for is within your power to reach. I mean, yes, we can do anything we set our mind to, but we need to start somewhere and you should not be setting goals that will only frustrate you in the short-term. That is not to say we can’t set grand goals we will eventually work towards, but you can’t run up Everest. There are steps to consider, and if we ignore those the probability of giving up or feeling defeated is much higher.


REALISTIC: Similar to the above component but more so related to the overall plan for achieving your goals, you need to set yourself on a path that falls within your ability to progress and improve. Understand that there is a learning curve to everything.

There are some virtuosos out there that can pick up skills quickly and some people who seem to eat whatever they want and lose weight. They are the exceptions. Be realistic and make your plan one that works for you and gives yourself the time to achieve it.


TIME-BASED: Along with being specific and measurable, your goals should include some timelines. And along with being realistic, these timelines should not be ridiculous. Losing ten pounds in one week is ridiculous. 1-2 pounds per week is realistic (depending on your body type, losing even that much may be too severe for some people). A timeline for your overall goal and the  mini-goals leading up to it is typically well-advised.


SMART goals are the way to go. If you have set a goal already, give it the SMART test and make adjustments where needed. If you are still working on your resolutions, keep these tips in mind and you will have already improved your chances of a successful 2012.


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