SMART Goals – Set Yourself Up For Success

January 16, 2017

CounsellingBy Lauren Berger, MSW, RSW

With each new year comes the annual mind game that is the New Year’s Resolution. Resolutions are usually just another way of saying goals; however, when we attach them to January 1st, they typically come loaded with emotion and an underlying notion that they will not be achieved. One major common denominator of unrealized goals is that they are not SMART. No, your goal doesn’t have to be a member of Mensa; I’m talking about S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Get ready to make over your goals and set yourself up for success! Lauren’s Top Tips for setting SMART goals are here:

S = Specific: Having too general idea of what you’d like to achieve (eg. “I want to lose weight.” “I’d like to change careers.”) makes for too vague a goal. When deciding upon your goal, be specific. I will lose 10 pounds. I will find a new full-time job in marketing. When you know exactly what you want, you can start finding your path to getting it.

M = Measurable: You should know when you’ve achieved your goal. In what ways can you measure your success? Using the example of weight loss, a scale can tell you if you’ve been dropping the pounds, and a tape measure can help you determine if you’ve lost inches.

A = Attainable: So, how are you going to do this?! Do you have the resources you need, such as access to great veggies and appropriate time to cook your own meals? If you have the goal of running a 5K, do you have good running shoes? A running buddy to stay motivated and accountable? A few days a week that you can spend time training? Figure out what tools/support you need, and make sure you’ve got it!

R = Realistic: If you’re hoping to lose 60 pounds in two weeks, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Same deal if you think you’ll land the perfect new job after one internet job search. Make sure your goals are within the realm of possibility. Don’t forget, when you achieve one goal – what an amazing feeling! – you can set another. Also, goals can change as you see them come to life; you may need to re-evaluate your needs and desires. Nothing is written in stone. Flexibility will help you reach your goal.

T = Timely: Without a deadline, a goal may never get achieved. Sure, you may want to lose 10 pounds…. But over eight weeks? Six months? Or… like… whenever? Having that deadline helps you stick to your plan and keeps you motivated.

And extra tip is to eliminate words like want – “I want to lose weight.” The word want sends the message to your mind that this is something desirable but perhaps out of reach, or something that you may or may not actually do. “I am going to lose weight” is much better language, and even serves as an affirmation. Bonus!

Still need help reaching that goal? Check in with your counsellor for personalized ways of staying on track, accountable, and motivated with someone who is always on your team.

CounsellorLauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at, drop her a line at, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.

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