Skip to Main Content
Holiday decorations and notebook with wish list

How to Set Goals that Stick – SMART Goals

To wrap up our New Year’s resolution series, be sure the goals you set are practical and realistic.  One of the best ways to get and stay motivated is to set a SMART goal.  SMART is an acronym you can use to guide your goal setting.

Be Specific When Setting Goals

S-SPECIFIC (The “what” portion of your goal) - The first part of setting a SMART goal is to make sure the resolution is specific.  The reason why goals like “I’m going to eat healthier,” or “I’m going to lose weight,” are well-intentioned but also hard to keep, is because the goal is too vague. Describe exactly what you want your new habit to be. For example, rather than saying you’ll eat healthier, specific goals might be to eat breakfast, eat more whole grains, drink less soda, etc. 

Make Sure Your Goal is Measurable

M-MEASURABLE (How much?) - Be sure your goal is measurable. Measuring progress allows you to hold yourself accountable and track your progress. This will be how you determine if you are succeeding. For example, keeping a journal of your activities is a great way to monitor progress. Perhaps you’d rather track progress using your phone, or another type of device, such as an activity tracker or pedometer.

Plan How You Will Achieve Your Goal

A-ACHIEVABLE (How are you going to do it?) - Make sure you have what you need to be successful - whether that be time, resources such as fitness equipment, or a good meal plan. If a gym membership isn’t within your budget, you will need to come up with an alternative, such as walking outside. If you don’t like to exercise outside when the weather is unfriendly, you will need to come up with an indoor alternative, such as walking at a shopping mall. Maybe it’s lack of time that’s holding you back. If so, consider combing through your schedule and figuring out a way to squeeze it in unconventionally, such as a walk around the field while you wait for your kid to finish their own sports practice, or maybe it’s walking during two fifteen minute breaks at work. Maybe it means giving up 15 minutes of extra sleep while you exercise your way through a quick YouTube video. Do you get easily bored doing the same activity? Have a plan in place to mix it up!

Realistic Goals Are More Likely to Stick

R-REALISTIC (Can that be done in that period of time?) - It’s important to set goals that you are capable of sticking with. If you travel a lot or do working lunches, avoiding restaurants may not be an achievable goal. Perhaps making better choices, such as skipping the caloric beverages or the fries when eating out is a more realistic choice. Challenge yourself, but starting with small achievable goals is more likely to lead you to long term success. Besides, you can always start small and raise the bar after each achievement!

Give Yourself a Timeframe to Reach Your Goal

T-TIMELY (How long until your reach the goal?) - Goals that are timely often start out with a start date/time and an end date/time.  There should be a start date, an ending date, and a frequency.

Examples of Great SMART Goals

  • In order to eat healthier, during the month of January, I will eat breakfast that includes at least 3 different food groups.
  • In February, I will eat more whole grains by replacing my typical white rice, bread, and pasta with whole grain alternatives at least three times a week.
  • To cut calories and to reduce my portions, I will use a salad plate, with no second helpings, at my evening meal for three weeks.
  • In order to increase my intake of fiber, I will eat a dark leafy green vegetable at least two times per week for one month.
  • I will eat out less often by using my crock pot at home twice a week and packing my lunch at least twice a week, during the months of March and April.
  • To lower my triglyceride levels, I will reduce my alcohol consumption down to one 12oz. beer per week, for eight weeks.
  • I will decrease my intake of caloric beverages by replacing my regular soda with a calorie free choice three days a week for six weeks.
  • Starting today, I will eat a serving of whole fruit (orange, apple, ½ grapefruit, etc.) instead of drinking a glass of juice at breakfast three times a week for two weeks.
  • To become more active, I will walk for 30 minutes during my lunch hour, every work day for two weeks.

Remember to make the changes very small and gradual, and to keep setting up new goals as you achieve the small ones!  If you need help, ask your doctor for a referral to see a registered dietitian in one of the CHI Health outpatient clinics across Nebraska.  We can help you set and achieve your goals with one or a series of appointment, by providing support and guidance. 

On behalf of the CHI Health dietitians, we wish you a very happy, healthy, and successful new year!


Kristine Walahoski, RDN, LMNT, CDE
Kristine Walahoski, RDN, LMNT, CDE

Kristine Walahoski, RDN, LMNT, CDE is a registered dietitian at CHI Health Good Samaritan.

Related Articles

Know When to Say When: Alcohol and Your Liver

APR 02, 2024

The liver normally breaks down alcohol, but if the amount of alcohol consumed exceeds the liver's ability to break it down, toxins can build up to cause liver damage over time.

Read More

Solve Snoring without the Mask

MAR 01, 2024

An innovative device is helping snorers get a good night’s rest and reducing their risk of health issues – all without the need of a sleep mask or cpap.

Read More

10 Ways to Ease Allergy Symptoms

FEB 15, 2024

Starting as early as February and persisting through October, seasonal allergies can cause a variety of annoying symptoms.

Read More