Imprecise New Year’s resolutions are made to be broken. Design a personal development program using SMART goal setting for a solution that works.

New Year’s resolutions seem broken: the most popular fail. Yet, they are the most desired changes in oneself and the most complex changes to stick to because they deal with ingrained habits or personality quirks. Give up? Laugh it off? If a resolution is essential, the intelligent thing to do is do a little goal-setting.

Top New Year’s Resolutions

According to, the following are popular new year resolutions.

  • Less alcohol
  • Educate yourself
  • Better job
  • Exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Budgeting
  • De-stress
  • Don’t smoke
  • Save cash
  • Travel
  • Become a volunteer

Readers are sure to have their variations to add to this list, but if they are phrased in this way, they are bound to fail.

Don’t Design a Poor Personal Development Programme.

The above New Year’s resolutions are woolly, imprecise wishes because they are do not incorporate sound goal-setting features. For example, “I want to get fit or get a better job” carries no more mental weight or a sense of purpose than “I want to make six million dollars and retire.” So they will always be on a wish list, doomed to fail because the motivation is not there or the means to achieve or measure results.

If making a New Year’s resolution means anything more than breaking open a fortune cookie and reading the slogan, it must be approached in an entirely different, purposeful way. The above statements could be turned into a great personal development program.

Setting Goals for New Year

Don’t wait for someone at the New Year family celebration to say, “What’s your New Year resolution?” That’s when the imprecise, poor goal setting happens. Instead, prepare for the moment right now. The better the preparation and motivation, the better the chance of the resolution working. If it matters, pay attention. Applying the SMART principle is a time-honored process for goal setting that seminar presenters and personal trainers trot out. The idea may be old-hat, but use it to the personal development goal chosen for a New Year’s resolution, and it will help.

SMART Goal Setting the New Year’s Resolution

The SMART principle means applying the acronym to any project. Make a decision

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant and Realistic
  • Time-framed

A glance at the list of resolutions published by reveals that none meet these criteria. To illustrate, let’s use the SMART approach to losing weight. Of course, some settings may have to be adjusted as progress is made down the list.

To make this Goal specific: set an amount: I want to lose 10 kgs

Make the Goal measurable: Weight loss is one of the easy things to measure – select a date with the bathroom scales. Decide how often and when progress checks will be made.

Make the Goal achievable: If you want to lose 5 kg in a week, common sense says, it’s not an attainable goal. Instead, a more extended period of lowered expectations might be required. Likewise, it is not achievable if other aspects of the dieter’s life, such as poor health, might preclude dieting.

Make the Goal relevant and realistic: if the person who wants to lose 10 kgs already only weighs 50 kg, it’s not pertinent or practical – it is just plain risky.

Make the goal time-framed: This is important. Set a realistic time frame – say 20 weeks – to lose 10 kgs. By all means, set a longer time frame – one year to lose 10 kgs. Intermediate goals and progress checks have become more critical now. If the dieter is satisfied to lose 10 kilograms over one full year, it makes sense to ensure that approximately 1 kg is lost each month.

In addition to the SMART principle, it is a great idea to force yourself to examine progress at particular times and have a failsafe mechanism in place. For example, have a friend circle a date on their calendar when they must demand your results and help you achieve the Goal if you faltered.

Re-state New Years Resolutions as Measurable Goals

The waffly resolution Lose weight could become: I will lose 5 kilos by December 24, 2011, measuring and charting my weight loss on Friday each week. If I find on February 31 that I have not lost a whole kilo, I will seek help from my friend Jenny.

Perhaps this all seems like too much trouble. Nevertheless, it is essential to remember that people make new years resolutions because they are dissatisfied with some aspect of their lives. So what’s the point of complaining year after year and not taking intelligent steps to make a change. This year’s resolution could be the one that changes your life for good.