How to set and achieve SMART new year resolutions

New year resolutions got you down and out? Are you afraid to try? You’re not along. According to US News & World report, most people have given up by February, and most people start losing motivation in mid-January. Don’t give up hope; here’s how to get it right. This is called the S.M.A.R.T approach, and it’s used for business management goals, and also I learned it in the Royal Conservatory of Music as a way to teach children music!

SMART new years resolutions

So let’s apply it to our new year resolutions also! This method, importantly, promotes self-compassion in our goal-setting and achieving. Without this key ingredient of self-love, our goals can’t take flight! When our goals are only punitive, we are bound to lose motivation and create endless opportunity for self-sabotage.


Be SPECIFIC – That’s what the S stands for, is specific. It’s not enough to say, I’m going to lose weight. Be specific- I will lose 10 pounds. Or, I’m going to meditate–rather, I will set up a daily meditation practice. Your new year resolutions must be very precise or there isn’t any way to set up targets and measure them.

Set MEASURABLE goals Visible progress is very motivating. What are you going to do to achieve your goal in a way that you can manage? Perhaps it’s not eat after 6pm. Or to walk 20 minutes, four times a week. I’m going to sit in practice 10 minutes in the morning.

Create ACHIEVABLE goals – This is where you might need a sanity check from a friend or family member about your new year resolutions. Since we like to set impossible goals that are not compassionate. “I’m going to be a size 4 like I was before I had kids.” If you do not have a meditation practice already, it is unlikely that you will sit in practice for 30 minutes per day. A realistic goal would be to sit in practice for 5-10 minutes in the morning before getting out of bed, or dedicating one activity for active mindfulness, such as washing dishes or driving. If goals are not achievable, with complete certainty we will self-sabotage and lose motivation, and risk getting on to the wheel of suffering and self-punishment, thus reinforcing our hidden, usually very old–and false– beliefs in our unworthiness and failure. In achieving small goals, we develop self-respect, self-esteem, confidence in our competence and so on.

Chose RELEVANT goals. There are many things we want to do in life – I would really like to learn to speak Russian, play the accordion like a pro, do a lot of hard core mountain climbing – but it ain’t possible to get it all done, and I have my physical limitations of time, ability, genetics etc. But it is reasonable that I can improve my sight-reading at the piano, or keep my spine limber so that I can sleep well and keep moving. When our hearts aren’t really in it, we can’t get anywhere. New year resolutions we set to please others, or to gain external approval are not right for us, so we can’t get traction. Rather, plan relevant goals–that is, plan from the heart: “what matters most to me, apart from the needs of my peers & community–so that I can achieve the highest and best for myself and community?”

Realistic TIME limits – How long do you think you’ll need to achieve your new year resolutions? Then add an extra 50%. That’s because we always underestimate how long it takes to get something done. Work in some slack-time or lapse-time into your schedule also. Otherwise when we get too behind, we lose motivation and give up. Our goals must be realistically timed to make sense in our lives!

Would love to hear from you on how this goes! Send me your stories. Kindest regards for an excellent new year and good luck achieving your SMART new year resolutions!