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December 8, 2020

Create a SMART New Year’s Resolution

By Avance Care Registered Dietitian Mindy McCullough, MS, RD, LDN


The start of a new year means a clean slate, a chance to re-focus, re-charge, and reinvigorate the person you already are.  With good intentions, we tend to run full steam ahead into 2021 armed with New Year’s resolutions.  Unfortunately, no matter how well intentioned these resolutions are, studies show that less than 25% of people stay committed to them after 30 days and only about 8% of people will accomplish them1.  Why is this?  Resolutions often fail because they were not specific and/or relevant to the individual1. A solid resolution is not as simple as making a statement.  It can be a plan to set you up for success!

Despite these grim statistics, New Year’s Resolutions are a great thing. They give us something to work towards during the cold dark months of winter, which can be a much needed distraction.  They also serve as a source of purpose after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season has worn off.  So, how can you create a solid resolution this year? 

Make it SMART.  The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.  The concept of the SMART goal was first introduced by George T. Doran in 19812.  The concept was originally intended for use by managers to aid them in writing company policies and procedures.  However, over time the acronym has been adapted for use in a variety of goal setting situations2.  Follow the steps and example below to help create successful resolutions.

SMART goal setting:

Example goal: Eat more vegetables

Specific: When setting a goal, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Think about this as the mission statement for your goal. This is not a detailed list of how you are going to meet a goal, but it includes an answer to the “w” questions: Who, What, When, Where, Which, Why3.

Example: I will eat at least 2 servings of vegetables 5 days of the week and maintain this for 4 weeks.

Measurable: Build into your resolution a way to measure your progress.  Build in checkpoints along the way.  These checkpoints serve as steppingstones helping you reach your bigger goal.  They are great for evaluating how far you have come or if you need to adjust your goal.

Example: I will track my vegetable intake in my calendar every day. Maybe with cute veggie stickers!

Achievable: When considering whether your goal is achievable, ask the following questions: What can I do to make this goal attainable?  Do I have everything I need to reach my goal?  Is the goal financially feasible?  Am I willing to learn a new skill or change my mindset to achieve the goal? The “A” in SMART can also be interpreted to mean action oriented.  Making your goal action oriented can mean spending time identifying what you will need to do in order to reach your goal4.

Example: I will need to purchase enough vegetables each week to meet my goal.  I will need to eat 1 serving of vegetables at dinner each day and 1 serving at lunch or for a snack to achieve my goal.

Realistic:  Choosing a goal that is realistic for you can sometimes be difficult.  For example, making a goal to eat 2 servings of vegetables every day when you currently only eat vegetables 2 days a week can be daunting.  Instead, tailor the goal to you.  For example, eat 2 servings of vegetables 5 days each week will most likely be a challenge, but much more realistic. We want to create challenging resolutions, but also realistic ones.  Remember even if your long-term goal is to eat 2 servings of vegetables every day, long-term behavior change is more likely if you start with smaller changes5.

Time-Bound: It is easy to procrastinate getting started when working towards a goal.  Therefore, it is important to include a start date and how often you are going to do your new behavior.  Example: I am going to start my goal of eating 2 servings of vegetables 5 days per week on January 1st, 2021.

Once you have written your SMART resolution it is valuable to build in evaluation points.  This will help re-assess your goal, identify barriers you have encountered, and avoid falling into old habits.  Depending on your goal, this can be built into the measurable part of your resolution or can be done as a separate objective. In the example resolution, tracking vegetable intake in a calendar will help you evaluate progress after 4 weeks and whether you need to adjust your resolution at that point.


I hope these tips will help you create a successful SMART resolution this year!  




    Mindy is a Registered Dietitian working at the Central Raleigh location.  In her free time, she enjoys exploring new area parks and greenways with her dog, Reese.  She also loves to travel and experience new cultures.  Many weekends you can find her watching hockey or hiking in the North Carolina mountains in search of waterfalls. 

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