You wake up January 1st, bleary eyed, splitting headache, and wondering how you made it up the stairs to your flat. And then it hits you – it’s New Year’s Day. You drag yourself out of bed, down a pint of cold water, look in the mirror and say to yourself “That’s it, this year I’m going to focus on my health”. Bam, your first resolution.

At least, that was how I started my 2017. It’s a new year’s resolution that may sound all too familiar, but is it a good one? Below, we look at 5 of the most popular resolutions but with only 8% of people keeping their resolutions; so the question is, are they really achievable?

  1. Get healthy
  2. Learn a new skill
  3. Travel more
  4. Get organised
  5. Enjoy life to the fullest

If we take a look at the first goal, this is probably the most common resolution there is. At some point or another we’ve all jumped aboard the “New year, new me” mantra and vowed to make our health a primary concern over the next 365 days. Getting healthy is a fantastic idea for anybody. From those who have never been jogging, to seasoned athletes, there’s always more you can do for your health. However, in this case, being popular and being any successful are worlds apart.

As with all these resolutions, this is an incredibly broad goal to give yourself. There are so many aspects to remaining healthy and so targets should be specified for individuals. The sheer depth of this goal is difficult to grasp and measuring it proves complicated when you don’t have specifics to follow.

I’m not saying that this is a terrible resolution itself, all I’m saying is that there’s a pretty solid chance it is going to fail. Sorry.

The main problem with these goals is that they’re not specific. They are so far fetched that even defining them could pose a challenge. For example, what exactly is meant by “learn a new skill”? Is it being able to remember your chords on the guitar, or busting out stairway to heaven? It’s clear that without a plan this goal can easily fall by the wayside, if it gets off the ground at all.

With any of these targets, it is easy to lose motivation and if there’s no time limit set for completion, it will surely give progress a back seat without a base rate. What’s needed is a system of setting goals that gives them a structure and as such a measurable way to achieve them.

I first heard about SMART targets in college, back when I was studying sports science, as a way for people to reach their fitness goals. SMART targets break down these big ambitious goals people strive for into smaller, measurable targets that would keep them motivated and show them their progress along the way. For example, instead of saying “I want to lose weight” your target would be “I want to lose 5kg by July 1st”. This may not seem like a massive difference, but here’s how SMART targets work:

S – Specific

Saying “I want to lose weight” is not enough. How much weight do you want to lose? It’s important to also ask yourself at this stage, why am I seeking this as my goal? This gives your goal a foundation, and gives you a target that you can visualise and work towards.

M- Measurable

Being able to measure your goals allows you to see your rate of progress and can keep you motivated or let you know that you need to work harder. By setting a figure to your goal the target is within sight, and getting closer to it should only spur you on further.

A – Achievable

Before setting any goal, it’s important to ask yourself “Is this something I can achieve?”. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with aiming high it is as equally as important to remember that failure can be a massive set back and can knock your confidence in the long run. Make sure that what you’re shooting for is within range if you want to stay motivated.

R – Relevant

This very much links back to the “why?” of the specific section, why is it that you’ve chosen this goal? For example, if your goal is to lose weight, but you’re at your optimum weight level; then this probably isn’t the best target to go for. Whereas if you’ve got a race coming up and know that the opposition is 5 seconds faster than you, then a relevant goal would be to shave that time off your own pace.

T – Timing

Possibly one of the most important components of the SMART target is timing. Giving yourself a time frame prevents you from drifting towards your goal at snail’s pace, and is a good incentive to keep motivated until you’ve got there. Going back to the weight loss example, the original goal gave no time frame and therefore no sense of urgency or commitment. By stating that you want it done by a certain date, you’re more likely to work harder to get it done.

So how can this structure help you reach your New Year’s resolutions? If we take a look back at the previous 5 targets, each one was flawed in the sense that there was too much to it, too much breadth to be able to begin to achieve them. Each one was vague, and overall a lazy target that offered no commitment or a sense of purpose, however by applying the SMART target setting to these resolutions the prospect of becoming one of the 8% doesn’t become so daunting.

Here are some revised resolutions to replace the vague ones:

  1. Get my resting heart rate down 5bpm by October 1st

This goal is just one of thousands that could be applied to the “get healthy” mindset, and is a measurable target that is achievable and has an end date. This would be a great resolution to kick off the new year with and is one that will make you feel happier in yourself. The next step is to come up with a game plan for how you’re going to achieve it. Remember to start small and increase at increments that work for you.

  1. Be able to recite the 5 major pentatonic guitar scales by June 30th

Learning a new skill is great, but just be sure that you pick a skill and choose something that you’re able to measure. With the vast wealth of things to try out, picking a skill is the hard part, so either develop a skill you have or go for something totally new; just make sure that whatever you pick is measurable and try not to lose motivation when progression gets hard.

  1. Save up £2,000 for a month’s trip around Europe by November 20th

Wanting to travel is fantastic, so if that’s really what you want to do then plan it! Find out where you want to go and what you want to do, figure out the costs and work towards that in a realistic time scale. Seeing the world is well within your reach, you just have to have the motivation to get there – setting a SMART target will help you stay motivated whilst reminding you what you’re working for.

  1. Set a timetable for revision by January 5th

This may seem rather short for a new year’s resolution, however you’ll achieve far more by setting yourself a small achievable goal than by setting the mammoth task of “get organised”. Giving yourself structure and a timetable to stick to ensures that you’re doing what you can and putting in the effort where it’s needed.

  1. Earn my PADI Advanced Open Water Diver qualification by August 10th

As previously stated, enjoying life to the fullest is a very personal thing that is down to you as an individual. Find something that you’re passionate about and pursue it, but go after it in a way that you can achieve. It could be anything from diving to learning how to bake a cracking batch of brownies, as long as it’s what you want to do.

The turning of the year represents a time for change for many people and making resolutions is a tradition that stretches way back to 153 BC. It’s a great opportunity to try something new and to better yourself as a person and with the help of SMART targets hopefully those goals seem a little more in reach.