By Heather McIver, Registered Dietitian

January 1 is often viewed as a time to clean the slate and start making goals and health is often a target of those goals but there is just one problem:

Many of us forget the basics of goal setting and set our resolutions up for failure!

According to one behavioural psychologist, less than 10% of resolutions are actually achieved because often the goals are too big, the complete opposite of our regular habits, and too cumbersome in the early weeks of January.* In other words, this is not the time to be making ‘go big or go home’ goals.

Let’s use a popular example for goal setting: “In 2020, I am going to get fit” and apply the SMART goal setting outline to help you achieve this resolution!.

S: What does getting fit mean?
Does it mean building muscle by starting an intense workout program?
Does it mean getting 10,000 steps per day by parking further from your work and grocery store and spending less time sitting after work? Or does it mean you will spend more time outdoors on the weekends? There are big differences between these types of fitness.

M: What is your measure of success? Number of times per week at the gym or number of steps per day?

A: Are you making a resolution to go to the gym 5 days per week but haven’t thought of what time of day that could possibly happen? Early morning band, after school sports, lunch meetings… Where is the time? Make sure that your goal is achievable, especially at the beginning (ie. January). Perhaps it is realistic to start with a 30-minute walk outside each day until sports camps end and then look into a fitness program at a gym. Achievable means it must be achievable for you personally, even if seems like it should be so easy and anyone can do it!

R: The worst thing you can do is fail at your first shot at goal setting. The goal is to truly succeed by making it realistic. Perhaps going to the gym is a perfect fit for your new fitness resolution, but maybe the problem is that 5 days is not realistic for your life right now. What is wrong with 3 days? If 3 days is a realistic fit for your schedule it will be much easier to achieve and you will be successfully meeting your goals week after week instead of constantly feeling like you are failing by only getting half of your goal achieved.


T: Specific dates are so important. How many times have you said “I will get back to “x,y,z” in the spring/summer/fall/winter, or when ‘things slow down?’ It is much easier to achieve a goal that has a specific timeline. When starting your exercise resolution, what date will you walk through the doors of the fitness centres or get outside to start collecting those steps? You want your timelines to be firm.


And that is it! Now write down your SMART Goals so that your resolutions this year will be truly successful.