January 3rd, 2009

Instead of Resolutions, Set S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals

Why do new year’s resolutions usually fail? Why do you start with guns blazing on January 1st, but by February, you’re losing motivation, cheating on your diet, skipping workouts, and slipping back into old patterns?

The dictionary definition of resolution is, “the mental state or quality of being resolved; a firm determination.” With the arrival of every New Year, however, resolution usually ends up meaning “to re-solve.”

You know what I’m talking about… That 20 pounds you lost last year, and promptly gained it right back… you are now resolving to take it off again aren’t you? The very nature of the word resolution implies gaining it back again.

Suggestion: don’t make resolutions. Set SMART goals.

Resolutions aren’t real goals. They’re more like wishes, and wishes are wishy-washy. A wish becomes a goal the moment you put it in writing. When you write your goals in a certain way, following scientific principles of success psychology, you’ll skyrocket your chances of getting what you want this year… and keeping it.

One of the most tried and true methods for goal achievement is the SMART goals formula. If you searched the net for SMART goals, you would probably find a dozen different variations on the SMART goal acronym.

Here’s my version of SMART goals, along with a little extra to make them even SMART-ER.

1. Specific. Set goals with clarity. Your mind does not respond well to vague generalities. If you say your goal is to lose weight and then you lose one pound, then you’ve reached your goal. Is that what you really wanted? Get clear. Be precise. Be specific.

2. Measurable. Set goals that can be quantified in measurable units such as pounds, body fat percentage, lean body mass, inches and clothing sizes. Performance goals can include strength (lbs or kilos lifted) and repetitions completed. Don’t forget to include health goals as well, such as blood pressure and blood lipids.

3. Accountable. Set goals you can be held accountable to. First be accountable to yourself by using a weekly progress chart, a daily nutrition diary and a training journal. Then double your motivation with external accountability and submit your results and journals to someone else who will hold you to your commitments

4. Realistic. Set goals that are attainable and maintainable. If you lose two pounds of fat per week, you are doing awesome. 30 pounds in 30 days sounds great in the advertisements, but it is not typical, and rapid weight loss is likely to consist of muscle and water, not fat, and is nearly impossible to maintain.

5. Time Bound. Set goals with deadlines. Time limits are highly motivating. With no time limit, there is no urgency for completion. Set goals for daily workouts and nutrition, weekly weight and body composition and 12 week changes in weight, body fat or measurements. Set long term goals as well for one year, five years and even beyond. For all time periods, be certain that your deadline is realistic.

Now we add some motivational ooompf for this year by making your goals even SMART-ER!

6. Emotional. Goals give you a direction, but strong emotions are the propulsion system that drives you in that direction. Build up a burning desire by focusing on the emotional reasons why you want to achieve your goal. Connect your goals to your values. What’s most important to you about reaching your goal? If you reach 9% body fat, or whatever is your target, what will that do for you? What will your life look like then? How will it make you FEEL?

7. Reviewed often. Resolutions fail because they are casually set once at the beginning of the year and easily forgotten. Stay laser-focused by writing and reading your goals every day. Repetition is one of the keys to re-programming your mental computer for success. Use the goal card technique. Write your single most important body or fitness goal on a small card, then carry it with you every where you go, reading it several times a day.

S.M.A.R.T. GOALS is a simple, memorable formula for goal setting and goal getting. It may not be new, but then again, there are no new fundamentals. Methods and tactics may change, but scientific principles of success never change. And don’t forget to make your goals even S.M.A.R.T.E.R this year. A goal that’s not strongly desired and kept in front of you every day will be forgotten. Stay focused, eat right, train hard and expect success!

– Tom Venuto, author of,
Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle.

“A goal that is casually set and lightly taken will be freely abandoned at the first obstacle.” – Zig Ziglar


tomvenuto-blogAbout Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of Bodybuilders and Fitness Models and the national bestseller, The Body Fat Solution, which was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Ironman Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community for inspiration and transformation


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8 Responses to “Instead of Resolutions, Set S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals”

  • Sue

    “Tom that’s just awesome. I was just sitting here working on my goals for the new year and took a break and saw this and went right away and read the article! I’m also going to make doing my goals a priority this year and taking the time to do them right! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with anyone who is willing to listen :-)”

  • Tom,Great job bro. We as trainers have a sweet postion. We get to see a lot from our side of the weights.What I have seen is that my clients who use goal setting 101 on a consistant basis our very successful.And the ones who don’t, aren’t.Also, my clients who are very successful with their business’s do three things;JournalGoal setMeditateSo I started doing it; and the quality of my life has explode ever since.So we are lucky Tom,Keep up the great work buddy!!Darin Steen (The Chicago Kid)

  • Ann

    One of the clearest explanations I’ve found for S.M.A.R.T. goals. And I love the bonus – making them S.M.A.R.T.E.R. I’m going to use this with my staff as we set the year’s performance goals at work this month as well as for myself in my personal life. Thanks for a timely article.

  • This is great advice! You may want to check out http://www.mylifelist.org for a great website that uses a proven methodology and the power of social networking to help people achieve their goals!!Would love it if you became a member and shared some of your Life List goals, advice and stories!!CREATE. ACT. CELEBRATE.™Bill StarrCEO, My Life List™http://twitter.com/mylifelist

  • Mark Hadding

    Tom,Great blog, and I love BFFM. One question for you regarding setting goals: you say “write them out.” Is there any psychological difference between writing them out by hand versus typing them into a computer, printing them out onto a card for frequent review, and perhaps re-typing them into the computer 1-2 times per day for repetition? I’m a tech geek who prefers typing to writing; but if there’s some psychological reason as to why writing is better than typing, then I could switch.Thanks,Mark

  • Markthats a very interesting question and Ive heard it debated before. I think writing by hand or typing is fine. Maybe there is something kinesthetic about writing by hand that makes it more impactful, but overall, I think its the repetition of the goal and the incessant focus on the goal that is most important.

  • MJ

    Great Info. I received your e-mail and one with the same goal setting from here. Did this info come from a specific book – if so, I would like to find out where so I can purchase it. Thanks!

  • Just want to add a goal setting resource to compliment your post here. It’s a goal setting app called GoalsOnTrack and it has worked very well for me. It saves me a lot of time in keeping track of my goals and most importantly it helps me better organize my daily todos towards achieving my goals.

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