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Creating Achievable and Smarter Goals for the New Year: New Year, Better You


The saying that gets spoken of right after the holidays and leading into the New Year… “New Year, New You”. You may reflect on last year's resolutions and goals seeing the successes and setbacks. Saying “New You” discredits all that you have been through and the successes you have had no matter how big or small. I challenge you to change it to “Better You”. We can strive to be more while keeping to our true selves. This helps set the tone when you look to establish and practice new, smarter goals and habits.

Common resolutions:

  • Going to the gym,

  • Lose weight,

  • Seeking a promotion,

  • Welcoming a new child,

  • Getting married,

  • Learn a new skill / hobby,

  • Quit smoking,

  • Living life to the fullest…

Resolutions can also look like:

  • I want move my body for 30 minutes a day,

  • I want to have a healthier relationship with food,

  • I want to have a better work-life balance,

  • I want to improve my sleep,

  • I want to spend quality time with those I care about,

  • I want to be intentional with my time outside of work,

  • I want to improve my mental health…

These all sound great! Sometimes it is hard to get started on these goals and sticking with them. Here is an exercise to try and create achievable goals. This is the SMART goals method.

S - Specific - What do I want to accomplish? What actions will need to be taken?

M - Measurable - How will I know when I am doing well at my goal?

A - Achievable - Is this goal attainable? Do I have the resources I need to accomplish this goal?

R - Relevant - Why is this goal important to me?

T - Time-Bound - What is the time frame for accomplishing this goal?

Take a moment to think about what your goals are and write those down. Try to categorize them and work through this practice one goal at a time. If you are having some challenge in identifying a goal but know you want to work on one, see if any of the examples above connect with you or is there another goal you have in mind? There will be an example provided after information on each part. Now let’s move on to the first step:

(S)MART - Specific

The first step is to answer the common “W” questions:

  • Who - consider all who needs to be involved in this goal, is it just you, is it your significant other, roommate, or someone else?

  • What - What exactly are your trying to accomplish and get detailed with it.

  • When - Begin to think about a time frame, though this will come later in the Time-bound part.

  • Where - This may not be relevant to you but if a specific location or place is involved, you will want to identify it in this goal.

  • Which - This will identify if there are any obstacles or requirements to meet your goal.

  • Why - What is the reason(s) you want to achieve this goal?

S(M)ART - Measurable

This is a way you will know you have met your goal and how you know progress is being made.

  • This can be done through numerous ways based on what your goal is, by: feedback, ratings, scoring, satisfaction ratings.

SM(A)RT - Achievable

This looks at how to reach your goal(s) and if there are things you need to do to attain that goal such as having resources or “tools” available, or changing your perspective on your approach to this goal. You want to feel motivated by this goal, this is an exciting time to do something new! Try to think about:

  • What will you need to accomplish this goal?

  • Are there certain skills you need to achieve this goal?

  • How can you get the tools or things you need to meet this goal?

SMA(R)T - Relevant

This means that your goal makes sense to a possible broader goal. For instance if you are creating a goal that is about your business, does the goal you are creating align with your business’s mission. Or I enjoy baking and want to make money from this skill.

SMAR(T) - Time-Bound

Setting a realistic time frame for your goal helps to create a frame of reference for meeting that goal. You want to be realistic about this also. For instance, if you want to learn how to paint in the next 30 days, however, you are traveling for work for a week, there is a holiday, and you have not ordered or gotten the supplies you need, this may not be a realistic time frame.

Let’s walk through an example together:

  • “I have been feeling anxious and I want to not feel anxious.” Here we have an idea of how to start creating this goal.

    • (S)MART - Specific

      • Who - Anxiety impacts me mostly and my partner at times.

      • What - I want to decrease my symptoms related to anxiety.

      • When - I want to decrease this in the next 3 months.

      • Where - I am most anxious when I am trying to fall asleep at night.

      • Which - At times, my partner sleeps over.

      • Why - It is important to me to get a good night’s sleep as I feel tired and more anxious the next day.

      • So let’s rewrite the first goal to be more specific. “I want to decrease my anxiety at night”.

  • S(M)ART - Measurable

    • How can this be measured that you are decreasing your anxiety at night?

    • We can look at this a few ways:

      • You can use a rating scale to know how your anxiety is in the moment, but let’s pinpoint a symptom to track, you can track multiple symptoms. This can look like:

        • On a scale of 0-10, how are my racing thoughts? 0 = none at all; 5 = they are present, but manageable, 10 = they are the most intense they have ever been

        • Another example can be looking at your sleep which can be tracked by a smartwatch or device: how many hours of sleep did I get and what did the device tell me?

          • Understand your baseline sleep score more by seeing: when it says my sleep score was 50, do I feel rested?

      • You can also use a strategy to help decrease your racing thoughts, for instance using deep breathing, meditation, grounding exercise and more.

        • If you use a strategy in the evening, this would be measurable by stating you were able to practice this.

    • Now your goal statement starts to look like “I want to decrease my anxiety at night. I will use deep breathing and rating scale to track my anxiety”.

  • SM(A)RT - Achievable

    • Is this goal achievable? Are you sleeping in your own bed? Are you able to continue to practice this if you are sleeping elsewhere?

    • If you answered no to any of these questions, let’s think about what can help to make it achievable. For example, do you feel more comfortable when you sleep in specific pajamas or use a certain pillow? Can you have those items with you if you are sleeping elsewhere?

  • SMA(R)T - Relevant

    • This goal would be considered relevant since you are working to decrease your anxiety.

  • SMAR(T) - Time-Bound

    • What is a good time frame for this? Let’s think this through:

      • My average score for my racing thoughts is at an 8 and you have not practiced any anxiety management strategies, and you are excited and motivated to work on this, a reasonable goal would be in 30 days increments.

        • At day 30 - decrease my rating score to 6 and practice my anxiety management strategy for 4 out of 7 days in a week.

        • At day 60 - decrease my rating score to a 5 and practice my anxiety management strategy for 5 out of 7 days in a week.

        • At day 90 - decrease my rating score to a 4 and practice my anxiety management strategy for 6 out of 7 days in a week.

      • Know too that you may achieve the 90 day goal sooner or may take more time. Things get in the way and you are working hard to establish a new habit and way to manage your anxiety. It is not a race, you don’t want to burn yourself out on your practice early.

  • So our final goal statement will be: “I want to decrease my anxiety at night. I will use deep breathing and rating scale to track my anxiety in the next 3 months”.

Struggling creating a goal? We can work together on creating goals just for you. Here are ways to contact me to start creating and getting the most out of your goals.

Blog Disclaimer - These posts are not meant to treat, diagnose, or serve as a replacement for therapy. If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health emergency, please contact your local crisis center or dial 911. Here are more immediate resources as well.


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