The 5-Letter Trick to Making Resolutions Stick

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

With the New Year right around the corner, now is the time to reflect on the past twelve months and contemplate resolutions for the future. Whether it’s eating more healthily, paying off credit card debt or flossing, setting goals helps you create a life filled with actions or accomplishments that reflect your values.

If only it was that simple. Ever gone into January with the best of intentions, only to toss them aside or forget about them come February? We get it—bed (or Netflix) can be way more appealing than flossing.

We sat down with Lauren Lee, a clinical psychologist with over ten years of experience, to learn a science-backed goal setting method. Her five letter trick could make this year different.

Getting SMART About Goal Setting

Lee introduced us to the SMART goal framework, which focuses on breaking down broad and basic resolutions into smaller goals that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

“For example, your resolution may be to work out more next year,” says Lee, who works at Lantern, an app that helps users manage their mental health. “There are many ways to approach this resolution and I would encourage a client to start out by focusing on one or two goals that align with this resolution. An example of one SMART goal could be, ‘I will walk to work three out of five days in the next week to get more exercise.’ Another might be, ‘This weekend, I will research gyms I’m interested in joining for 30 minutes to find a place I can workout.'”

(Image credit: Morgan Schemel)

How SMART Goals Work

These goals are more specific than simply “working out more.” By including the answers to questions like “how many” or “how long” — being specific and measurable — you have a clear way of gauging whether or not you’re making progress on your goal.

An achievable goal is one you can realistically accomplish. For example, if early morning meetings prevent you from walking to work, you might decide to walk home instead.

Ensuring the goal is relevant is a critical step. After all, why work towards something that isn’t important — or doable — to you? Lastly, making the SMART goal time-bound gives you a set window of time in which to complete the goal. In other words, you can’t keep putting it off.

The Power of Positive Reinforcement

By setting small and specific goals, you’re capable of achieving them more quickly. This positive reinforcement will make you more likely to stick with your SMART goal.

If the goal isn’t working for you, you can adjust it or try another one that aligns with your resolution. Lee adds, “The emphasis here is to find and keep doing what works. Put your energy and resources towards actions that will reinforce and achieve your resolution.”

The New Year is a fresh start and opportunity to add personally meaningful habits to your life. “No matter the goal, one can look towards the horizon of the new year with a clean slate perspective where anything is possible,” says Lee.

She’s right—anything is possible in the New Year. Especially when you get smart about goal setting.