It is January 1. It is a new year and a new you. You are full of motivation and ready to crush all of your health goals. It is now January 31. You are making plans for next year’s resolution and writing off 2019 before it ever really got started.

This has happened to all of us. For a variety of reasons, New Year’s Resolutions have come and gone with a low percentage of success. However, that does not mean this trend needs to continue. Although I will not pretend to have every answer, my hope is to give you a few pointers for how to make your resolutions more successful in the new year.

Incorporating S.M.A.R.T. goals is one of the most effective ways of keeping ourselves on track. Developed by George T. Doran, the acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time Based. When we set goals, we know exactly where we want to end up but often have no idea how to get there. This method of goal setting is a great way to narrow down not only your what, but your when, why, and how.

For example: I want to lose weight in 2019. A perfectly healthy and achievable goal, but this is loosely defined. Do you want to lose 1 pound, 10 pounds, or more? Are you looking to burn fat or are you actually looking at putting on muscle weight? All valid interpretations of the same goal, but all will take you in very different directions and will require different action plans to attain. Let us apply the S.M.A.R.T. model to this theoretical New Year’s Resolution and see how it helps us stay accountable.

S– I want to lose 20 pounds by December 31, 2019.

M– This is a well defined goal as there is both a time limit as well as a measurable unit (weight) to reflect whether or not you are trending in the right direction. It also allows you to have a definite yes or no when you ask yourself “did I accomplish my goal?”.

A-Whether or not this goal is attainable depends on the individual and a variety of health factors. Someone with an already low BMI will have a very difficult time losing 20 pounds (in addition, it may not even be healthy to lose that much weight). Let us assume that the person setting this goal has done the necessary research and consulted with their doctor and this is a healthy goal to pursue. In 12 months, this person would be required to lose 1.67 pounds per month. Given the time frame and assuming 20 pounds of fat loss is a healthy goal, this is more than sufficient time to achieve this goal.

R– Once again, the relevance in this situation depends on the person. Assuming this individual has done their research and consultation, there is nothing wrong with this goal. Relevance will apply more to the tactics used to achieve this goal. This could include buying a gym membership, reading nutrition books, joining a run club, etc.

T– Time based goals are often more effective than their loosely defined counterparts. If you have a project with no deadline versus one where there is an urgent status, which one is going to get most of your attention? Because this goal has a conservative time limit of 12 months, it gives the person a deadline to work towards while leaving enough room to allow for any fluctuations, which are always a possibility.

The best part about S.M.A.R.T. goals is that you can apply them to any facet of your training! Try it for yourself, and best of luck with all of your resolutions!