Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Broken Resolve: Why setting goals for 2009 is better than making “New Year’s Resolutions”

By Ashley Chin, PhD, MPH, MA

Each year about this time, people ask me, “So, what are your New Year’s Resolutions?” As I have been considering this lately, I’ve decided I’m not making any resolutions this year. Instead, I am developing “Goals for 2009”. What’s the difference you ask? It’s the difference between being disappointed sometime in mid-February and achieving lasting change throughout the year. Turns out, there’s a big difference between resolutions and goals.

  • Usually time bound to January 1
  • They are often all or nothing, once they’re “broken” they’re over
  • Not always specific or measurable
  • New Year’s resolutions tend to be huge, lofty goals that don’t always include the intermediate steps


  • Can be made at any time and cover any time period (i.e. annual goals, monthly goals, weekly goals, daily goals)
  • Are less rigid and can be measured by the amount achieved
  • SMART: Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound
  • Well written goals include objectives and action steps

Here’s an example of a typical New Year’s resolution:

2009 New Year’s Resolution: Get healthy.

Not very specific – what does “get healthy” really mean? How will you measure it? How do you know if you can achieve it? Is it really realistic for you to resolve to “get healthy? What is the deadline for this – February 1 or December 31?

Perhaps a better way to improve your health is to set goals for 2009. Here’s an example of one way to formulate goals:

Goal for 2009: Improve overall health by losing weight, controlling stress and improving eating habits.
Objective 1: Lose 10% of current body weight by June 1, 2009.
Action Steps:
1. Find out when Weight Watchers meetings are held and join one convenient to me.
2. Make list of non-food rewards.
3. Reward myself for each 5lb loss.
4. Buy new walking shoes.
5. Walk 20 minutes, 3 X per week.

Objective 2: Utilize stress management techniques at least twice per week, beginning March 1, 2009.
Action Steps:
1. Before March 1, learn about stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, prayer, biofeedback, progressive muscle relaxation etc. by asking friends, calling local yoga/fitness facilities and reading books/internet.
2. Try at least three different techniques before March 1.
3. Beginning March 1, utilize a specific stress management technique at least twice per week.

Objective 3: Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day at least 5 days per week and limit alcohol/sweets to 2 days per week, beginning Jan.1.
Action Steps:
Make use of my cookbook collection and try a new vegetable recipe once per week.
Subscribe to the “Meatless Monday” internet newsletter for ideas on incorporating more fruits/veggies into diet.
Once per week, try one new fruit/vegetable I’ve never eaten before.
Invite girlfriends to come over for movie night (with healthy snacks) rather than meeting for drinks.

As you can see, the goals above are much SMARTer – specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-bound! Good luck with your goals for 2009.

Ashley is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor with over 15 years of experience. One of her goals for 2009 is to become a certified Wellness coach so that she can help others in their quest for total wellness. She can be contacted at

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