Are Your Resolutions SMART Enough to Survive?

Dear Rich Lifer,


2020 is already here, and like most, you’ve probably found yourself considering your New Year’s Resolutions. Ah, yes, resolutions: yearly vows to finally lose that weight, exercise more, eat better, save more money, get organized, learn something new… broad goals that we make to better ourselves.

 If you’re anything like most people, you probably stick to your New Year’s resolutions for a few days or weeks before the motivation fizzles out and you find yourself back at square one. 

In fact, studies from Psychology Today show that 80% of New Year’s resolutions end in failure. The New York Post reports that most Americans fail or give up on their resolutions by January 12th! That date has come and gone, so consider where you stand. 

Have your goals already crumbled, or have you managed to hang on? And why do our resolutions fail so assuredly? 

Is Your Resolution SMART?

A key reason that our New Year’s resolutions end in disappointment time and time again is that they are not specific enough. 

Sure, I say I’m going to lose that weight, but how? What is my plan of action? How will I carry out this plan long enough to reach my goals? 

When you make a standard New Year’s resolution, there is no accountability, no deadline, and no procedure. We don’t need those pointless New Year’s resolutions in our lives…what we do need are SMART goals. 

SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, & Time-Bound. These goals allow you to create a plan to help you actually achieve what you want in life. 

Think of those New Year’s resolutions as a first step. What do you want to achieve? From there, develop a SMART goal, or goals, to really make it happen. 


Let’s break down the acronym and see how it really works.


When you set a goal for yourself, it must be specific, or precise. Instead of saying you’re “finally going to lose that extra weight”, determine exactly how much you want to lose and how. 


Determining that you want to lose 40 pounds in 6 months by exercising at least three times a week and cutting out carbs and sugar is much easier to accomplish than deciding simply to “lose some weight”.

If your objective is to save money in 2020.  Specify exactly how much you want to save, not just “as much as I can.” Setting a specific target like, $6,000 for instance, is a necessary first step. 


Regardless of what your goal is, it is crucial that you can measure it. To continue with the weight loss example, you can measure the change with weekly weigh-ins, or before and after photos. 


If you cannot measure your goal, you’ll never be able to achieve it. With this in mind, you may also consider breaking down your goals into smaller “mini-goals”. Instead of looking at a 40-pound weight loss in one big chunk (no pun intended), break it down into 10-pound increments. 


If your goal is to save $6,000 in 2020, breaking it into 12, $500 monthly increments will let you track and measure how you are doing at the end of each month. 


It is easier to obtain multiple smaller goals, and you will find that this provides more motivation to keep you going towards the longer-term objective.


Attainability is a requirement when working towards obtaining a goal because you cannot do the impossible. 

You must think realistically when working towards a SMART goal. Telling yourself that you will lose 40 pounds in a month, or save half of what you earn each month, is not only unsafe, but it is unattainable. 

Setting unattainable goals is simply another way to set yourself up for failure. Come up with a realistic plan and timeline in order to hit your target. 

This is also the time to lay out exactly how you will achieve this goal. Consider what steps must be taken in order to make your goal a reality. Hitting the gym 6 days a week sounds great in theory, but determine whether this is realistic to your schedule and your body’s current abilities. 

Don’t create a plan of action that you know you cannot stick to – this will NOT lead you to success. 


Now is the time to consider why this goal is meaningful to your life. Consider how reaching this goal will change you for the better. 

If you do not truly believe that this goal will positively impact your life in the long-term, then it is not worth it to put in the amount of work it will take. 

If a doctor expresses concern for your health or you can’t stand to look in the mirror, setting a goal for weight loss may be the right move for you. Similarly, if your spending has been out of control, and your savings account is shrinking, it’s time for a change. 

Conversely, setting a goal for yourself simply because your friend wants to do something and is looking for moral support and a teammate to commiserate with does not make the issue relevant to your life and well-being, and will therefore make it much harder for you to stick with. 


Finally, your SMART goal must be time-bound. A goal with no end date is not truly a goal at all. 

You can tell yourself that you want to lose weight, or save money but without a set end-date, you have no accountability. 

Sure, you can lose 40 pounds or save $6,000 over the course of a few years, but giving yourself a set deadline of 6 months from your first workout, or $6,000 by December 31st is going to push you to work harder and stay focused. 

Wrapping it up the SMART Way

The final piece to the puzzle that is a successful SMART goal is motivation. If you have no drive to make something happen, let me tell you, it is NOT going to happen. 

If you want to reach your goals and change your life, you are going to have to put in the work and make it a reality. SMART goals can be used to improve any aspect of your life, from health and wellness to investing to bettering your career or retirement experience. 

It’s time to put those failed resolutions to rest and start planning for a SMART future.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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