Now that it’s February, let’s ask ourselves an honest question: How is your News Years’ Resolution coming along?  Do you even remember what it was?  If you don’t, you’re not alone.  Several studies have shown that over half of all New Years’ Resolutions are dropped by the end of January!  Even more shockingly is that on average only 8% of all New Years’ Resolutions are achieved!

These statistics raise an important question: how can you set goals or resolutions that you will be more likely to achieve?  Thankfully, there are answers.

Professional development expert Terri Savelle Foy recommends making your goals “SMART”:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Let’s use an example goal to see what this looks like.

One common goal or resolution that you hear people make is “I’m going to lose weight.”  Using Terri’s checklist however, you can see that this goal raises many questions.  How much weight are you going to lose?  How will you measure your progress?  Are you planning on losing an attainable and realistic amount of weight?  How?  And how long are you going to give yourself to do this?

So how could you better define this goal?  Using Terri’s checklist as a guide, we could elaborate on the goal to make it: “I will lose twenty pounds over a period of five months by spending at least three days each week at the gym.”   This goal makes it clear how much weight you are aiming to lose, and by establishing a timeline it also provides marker points to monitor your progress (four pounds per month for five months).  It also specifies how you will achieve this goal (three gym visits per week), and is certainly attainable and realistic (as compared to, say, one hundred pounds in five months).

The SMART method can be applied to any goal, whether it be a business goal (‘x’ number of new clients in ‘x’ months), financial goals (reduce personal debt ‘x’ amount in ‘x’ months), or otherwise.

Many other professional development experts and psychologists point to a similar checklist of key points to consider in goal making.  The bottom line is that your goals need to be clearly defined, measurable, and on a timeline with actionable steps.  It also helps to physically write out your goals and then read them out-loud daily.  Always remember that poorly defined goals are easier to ignore, and it never hurts to have an accountability partner who will keep you honest.

One final thought on goal setting: your goals should, for the most part, align with your personal life vision.  Not sure what it means to have a vision?  Don’t worry.  We’ll cover that in our next article.


Jeremiah Clark, M.A., is a healthcare IT consultant with six Epic Systems certifications. He is also
a partner at Appalachian Digital, a local web development agency, and a founding partner of
MHQC LLC Real Estate Development. He and his wife Erin are natives of Kingsport, TN.