According to research, 80% of people fail to keep up their New Year’s resolutions, with most people losing their resolve within 6 weeks. It is estimated that only 8% (1 in 12 people) follow through in keeping up their resolutions over the entire year.   

 Why do New Year resolutions fail? 

One of the key reasons New Year resolutions fail is that they are not specific enough. For example, “I want to create more work-life balance in 2024” is a great personal mission to strive for, but it has no accompanying road map showing a desired result or how to get there.  

Here are four ways you can transform objectives from being mere resolutions into actionable goals: 

1. Determine achievable goals for different areas of your life: We all fulfill many roles in life and are multi-faceted. A good approach to goal setting is to first define your areas of priority. For example, you may be primarily concerned about getting your finances in order, but what about the other areas in your life? You may also want to train to run a marathon. If you set one or two goals in each area, it is highly likely you will see a ripple effect across every area – because success in one area leads to success in another. Consider these areas of your life: 

  • Personal life 
  • Relationships 
  • Spiritual life 
  • Work and career development 
  • Financial security 
  • Health and fitness  

2. Write your goals down: Writing down your goals is the start of the SMART goal setting process. It helps to provide clarity – taking your goals from being wished-for to being more concrete and real. Your written goals should answer the questions of what you want to accomplish and why it is important to you. When goals are written down you will be more likely to engage with them both intellectually and emotionally.  

3. Pare down your goals: Instead of setting dozens of goals, consider prioritising and focusing on the goals that are most important to you. These may change as you reach and revise short-term goals – or achieve a long-term goal and set another. Some people prefer to pick just one goal at a time and focus their energies on it rather than diffusing their attention across several different objectives. 

4. Track your goals: Tracking your goals allows you to regularly measure your success and check on what areas might need improvement. This allows for course correction if necessary and can keep you motivated to reach your goals. 


How to turn your New Year resolutions into SMART goals  

Transform your New Year resolutions into SMART goals by making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time prescribed. Creating goals that are SMART means breaking down what you want to achieve into smaller, more manageable actions that are easy to track and achieve, step by step. 


Here is a practical guide to making your SMART goal-setting process easy and straightforward:

Be specific

A specific goal is well defined, clear, and unambiguous. To make a goal specific, consider these 5 “W” questions.

  1. Who: Who else is involved in me reaching this goal?
  2. What: What do I want to accomplish?
  3. Where: Where is this goal to be achieved?
  4. When: When do I want to start?
  5. Why: Why do I want to achieve this goal?

Make your goal Measurable

Your goals should have some sort of objective way to measure them—whether this is a deadline, a change in behaviour or monetary amount – or some other measurable element. For example, instead of creating a vague goal to save money toward an overseas holiday, you might create a goal to save a particular amount of money each month. This is much more specific and gives you a schedule to work to. In this case, you could further break down how much you need to save each day to hit your monthly goal and then create an action plan that enables you to hit that number. There may be a series of money saving actions to track, such as giving the cafeteria or deli a miss and packing your own work lunch.

Ensure your goals are achievable

Being achievable means that your goals are not outside the realm of possibility – even if you decide to set yourself a goal that is tough to achieve. For example, let us say you want to learn to speak Spanish before you take your overseas holiday in Spain. If you have never spoken a word of Spanish before, you cannot expect to be fluent within a matter of months. However, you could set a goal to learn from a foreign language app for 30 minutes every day. You could set a “stretch goal” that is purposefully challenging. For example, you could also hire a Spanish tutor to ensure you are as close to fluent as possible before your holiday.

Your goals should be realistic

In addition to setting attainable goals, you also want them to be realistic. For example,

using our attainable goal example of learning to speak Spanish before your holiday in Spain, the goal of setting 30 minutes aside each day to practice Spanish is both realistic and achievable. On the other hand, setting a goal to practice speaking Spanish for two hours every day is likely to be unrealistic for busy working people, even though it is theoretically achievable.

Goals must be time-bound

A SMART goal must be time-bound in that it has a start and finish date. If the goal is not time-constrained, procrastination can creep in. Ask yourself specific questions about your goal deadline and what can be accomplished within the allotted time. If the goal will realistically take six months to complete, it is useful to define what should be achieved a quarter and half-way through the process. Providing milestones and time constraints helps to create a sense of urgency.


SMART goals can be a powerful motivator. They provide clarity and focus, helping people to identify their priorities, clarify their ideas, and focus their efforts – providing a clear sense of purpose and direction at work, SMART goals encourage people to use their time and resources more productively through focusing their efforts on specific tasks that are aligned with what they are expected to achieve. One of the great benefits of setting SMART goals is that one can set milestones, monitor progress, and adjust if needed. Monitoring progress makes it easier to adjust strategies or devise a new one if needed.

Over to you for sharing your comments and experiences.

About the Author: Kerstin Jatho

Kerstin is the senior transformational coach and team development facilitator for 4Seeds Consulting. She is also the author of Growing Butterfly Wings, a book on applying positive psychology principles during a lengthy recovery. Her passion is to develop people-centred organisations where people thrive and achieve their potential in the workplace. You can find Kerstin on LinkedIn, Soundcloud, YouTube and Facebook.

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