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Beyond the Hype: Crafting Effective New Year Resolutions with SMART Goal Strategies to Crack the Code to Lasting Health

Published on: December 30, 2023

As we step into a new year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on our health and well-being, and to set the stage for positive changes throughout the coming months. As a registered dietitian, habit coach and wellness advocate, I understand the challenges that busy women face in prioritizing their health. In this blog post, I’ll explore the power of New Year resolutions, the effectiveness of SMART goals, and how you can make lasting changes for a healthier year ahead!

What Are New Year’s Resolutions?

As you’re probably well aware, New Year’s resolutions are personal commitments or goals that individuals set for themselves at the beginning of a new calendar year. These resolutions typically revolve around self-improvement, personal growth, lifestyle changes, relationships, career, or anything to enhance an aspect of that person’s life. 

In order of popularity from a recent poll for 2024, 48% of people are intending to work on improving their fitness, 38% on improving their finances, 36% on their mental health, 34% on losing weight, and 32% wanted to improve their diet. Pretty common trends we see yearly.

The Critiques of New Year’s Resolutions

The term “New Year’s resolutions” is not universally embraced, and there are several reasons why some people may have negative feelings toward it. One reason is the perception that New Year’s resolutions are often short-lived and ineffective (p.s., they don’t have to be!). Many people have ambitious goals at the beginning of the year but struggle to maintain the momentum over time. The high rate of abandonment of resolutions can lead to a sense of frustration and disillusionment. 

Stats show that the average resolution lasts just 3.74 months. It’s actually estimated that 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week and over 43% of people quit by the end of January…yikes!

In fact, failing at New Year’s resolutions is so common that there’s even some unofficial dates to commemorate these failures. “Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day” is on January 17 while others denote the second Friday in January as “Quitter’s Day.” 

Many people also feel resolutions this time of year create a sense of societal pressure to set and achieve specific goals by a certain timeframe. This pressure leads to stress and anxiety, which we know aren’t very healthful. Or they feel like they’re cliché and trend-driven. It’s a tradition so ingrained in popular culture that it loses its genuine meaning for some. 

Plus, critics argue that positive change and self-improvement should be ongoing processes, rather than being limited to a once-a-year event. This also leads to the all-or-nothing mentality. If a resolution is broken, it can lead to feelings of failure, making it challenging for individuals to regroup and restart their efforts.

Despite the criticism, others view New Year’s resolutions as a valuable opportunity for reflection and goal-setting. So whether you embrace or reject the phrase ‘New Year’s resolutions’, the key is to find a method of change that resonates with you in a positive way.  

The Power of A New Calendar Year

The start of a new year is symbolic—a fresh page in the book, an opportunity to redefine our priorities and embrace positive transformations. This time of year often comes with a surge in motivation. Perhaps it comes from eating all the chocolates and food during the holidays that you’re tired of feeling sluggish and know you need to make some drastic changes. While we know motivation doesn’t last, it’s still a great tool to lean on when we have it!

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change, and others are not.” – James Gordon. 

The Art of Setting SMART Goals

Chances are, if your new year’s resolutions are the same as a previous year’s, they aren’t ‘smart’. They’re purely wishful thinking. 

It’s like wanting to win the lottery to become a millionaire but never buying lotto tickets…pretty unrealistic, right?

When it comes to making resolutions, the SMART goal framework is a game-changer. If you’re new to this concept, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let me break it down:

  • Specific: Define your goals clearly. Instead of a vague resolution like “exercise more,” be specific, like “I will walk for 30 minutes every day after work.”
  • Measurable: Set metrics to track your progress. For example, if your goal is to eat more vegetables, specify the number of servings per day so it’s easy to tell if it happened.
  • Achievable: Ensure your goals are realistic and attainable. Setting small, achievable milestones keeps you motivated. Starting off by saying you want to lose 100 lbs is lofty. Breaking it down to 5 lb increments may give you more motivation and eagerness to keep going. It also helps to point you in the right direction. If you aren’t able to consistently lose 5lbs at your set intervals, then you know you’re on the wrong track to lose 100 and your actions need some adjusting.
  • Relevant: Align your goals with your overall well-being and that actually matter to you, otherwise you won’t prioritize them.
  • Time-bound: Set deadlines for your goals. Having a timeframe creates a sense of urgency and helps you stay on track. Don’t pick deadlines that are too far in the distance. Shorter time frames will help you stay on task and more likely to stick to them. 
a descriptive graphic of SMART goals

Navigating Challenges and Roadblocks to Your Health Goals

If there weren’t any roadblocks to reaching your goals, you would have already reached them! Anticipate roadblocks on your health journey and be prepared to overcome them. Life is unpredictable, but resilience is your secret weapon. 

We all have excuses! We’re too busy, we don’t have time, we forget, we push it off to another day, we blame people around us… 

If one of your goals this year is one you’ve tried mastering before, you likely already know what’s going to stand in your way. You know what made you stop going for it in the past. Take a few minutes to make a plan on how you can overcome these challenges. 

What can you do on days when you’re too busy? On days when you don’t feel like it? On days when you don’t have the support from others? On days when everything seems to go wrong?

If you don’t know the answers, then chances are it’s going to be tougher to overcome these challenges when they come up. Humans like to take the easy route, what’s most convenient. So if your goal is to eat balanced meals at work and you didn’t meal prep the night before so you’re stuck relying on a nearby restaurant, there’s a high chance you won’t be making the smartest food choice. 

Build a Support System to Help You Reach Your Goals

Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who uplift and encourage you. Share your goals with friends, family, get a coach, or join communities that share your health and wellness aspirations. With the internet, you have access to anyone! Find Facebook groups, accounts on social media that you find uplifting and useful as you pursue your goals. 

P.s. Did you know that if you commit your goals to someone else, your chances of success go up to 60%?! AND, if you book time into your calendar, like a meeting with someone with regular check-ins, your success goes up to 95%!!

The Bottom Line

Whether you believe in setting New Year resolutions or not, January is as good a time as any to take steps towards healthy lifestyle changes. As we embrace the potential of a new year, let’s commit to setting SMART goals that drive us toward lasting health and happiness. Your journey is unique, and your goals are just the roadmap to steer you in the right path. Here’s to a year of positive transformations, empowered choices, and thriving wellness!

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Kaitlyn is a registered dietitian and fitness enthusiast dedicated to helping busy women improve their health through sustainable habits.

She’s seen firsthand how difficult it can be to balance a demanding schedule with a healthy lifestyle. That’s why she is passionate about empowering women with the knowledge and skills they need to prioritize their health, even when life gets hectic.

She aims to spread the word about the power of habits and to make healthier living more manageable for busy women who are trying to do all of the things, like herself.

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