It feels like 2018 has come and gone in a flash, and now it’s time to greet the New Year with fresh resolve.

January brings the desire for a fresh start and the opportunity to re-commit to a healthier lifestyle. We spend time reflecting on where we are and where we want to be. As you think about the upcoming year, here are tips on smart goal setting.

Resolutions vs. Goals

While New Year’s resolutions are the norm, it’s actually much more powerful to set well thought-out goals for the year. Research has shown that more than half of adults make New Year’s resolutions, but fewer than 10% actually stick with their resolutions for more than a few months.

We typically treat New Year’s resolutions with an all-or-none mentality, which creates unrealistic ideals that are too difficult to maintain in our daily lives. However, if we shift the focus to setting a few powerful goals for our year that are both attainable and achievable, we are more likely to stick to them and actually reach our goals.

A powerful goal has four components to it:

1. It’s realistic.

No one knows your life better than you do. Take time to reflect on your values, your lifestyle, your schedule, and be realistic about what positive changes you can introduce.

Making a resolution to workout at the gym every day might be unrealistic and leave you feeling poorly about yourself when you can’t stick to it. Setting a goal to hit the gym three times a week for 45 minutes in the morning before class might be more attainable. You want your goal to be achievable but also challenging enough to push you out of your comfort zone.

2. It’s measurable.

A powerful goal needs to be specific with a defined outcome. How will you know you’ve achieved your goal? Or that you’re on track? Set up milestones for each goal, or create check boxes in your planner to keep you moving towards your goal.

3. It has a timeline attached to it.

Every good goal needs a deadline. Whether it’s a date that you’ll achieve it by (e.g., I will run a 10km race by June 2019), or a date that you commit to checking in with yourself (e.g., I will cook four dinners per week at home starting January 2, and re-evaluate this goal in March 2019). Writing down a date or timeline keeps you accountable. Put it in your calendar, set reminders in your phone, and set yourself up for success.

4. It’s shared and visible.

It’s easy to get caught up in the busyness of daily life. By the end of January, we’ve usually settled back into routine and forgotten about our fresh resolve. Sharing your goals with close friends and mentors creates a support system for you, and holds you accountable. You can also post your goals somewhere visible as a daily reminder: Write them on a note and tape it to your bathroom mirror or write them down in your favourite notebook. The more often you see them, the better the encouragement to keep going!

Thanks to dietetics student Britney Lentz for helping to draft this article.