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Ring In Good Health 

Savvy advice for getting SMART about New Year’s resolutions

It happens every year: the holiday season approaches and people begin to meticulously craft their New Year’s resolutions. And after the hubbub and pomp of New Year’s Eve dies down, many of those resolutions are abandoned. Just take a look at all those health clubs that are brimming to capacity the week after the Big Ball drops—a month later and they’ll be empty.

So here’s a novel thought: Instead of making a New Year’s resolution and waiting until the turn of the new year to get on it, try making that resolution—and acting on it—far in advance. As in now. That way, you can get a jump on your goals and develop good habits before all the media hype and pressure begin.

Take a Fresh Approach

If you want to amp the level of success for those resolutions—it’s estimated that 85 percent of people break New Year’s resolutions—take a page from the corporate world and set SMART goals.

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. It’s a way of keeping goals on track, and offers people attempting new life achievements the ability to see a difference and build confidence that the goal can actually be met.

When sitting down to create a resolution, ask yourself if the goal you have in mind is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. And write it down, committing yourself to it. If it doesn’t address all the SMART criteria, keep adding elements until you’ve satisfied each element of SMART.

Applying SMART

Let’s say you want to reach your healthy weight in the coming year. It’s not enough to set that as your goal—you’ve got to say how much weight and by what date. Also, that specified weight … is it a goal that’s realistic and attainable? Aiming to lose a pound or two a week is healthy and realistic. But more than that? You’ll risk setting yourself up for failure. What’s more, by setting a time limit (say 10 pounds over three months) you can check periodically to look at your success against the time goal. That way, any incremental change can help you build confidence.

As another example, you can’t just say you want to be a better person in the coming year. Get specific. Does “better” mean the way you treat people, or does “becoming a better person” have a health component—like quitting smoking—attached to it? By getting SMART, you can track an achievement. And by getting SMART, you can make bite-sized chunks of your goal, key to preventing discouragement if you can’t see huge changes all at once in your goal.

Get SMART. And maybe this coming year will be the one in which you stick to your resolutions.