Set a SMART Goal

Kick off the new year with setting a SMART goal! Experts say efforts to change are more successful if they are SMART— that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. So, as you’re deciding on a change, make sure it can pass the SMART test:

S Set a very specific goal. I will add one fruit serving—that’s half a cup, chopped—to my current daily diet.

M Find a way to measure progress. I will log my efforts each day on my calendar.

A Make sure it’s achievable. Be sure you’re physically capable of safely accomplishing your goal. If not, aim for a smaller goal.

R Be sure it’s realistic. It may seem counterintuitive but choosing the change you most need to make—let’s say, quitting smoking or losing weight—isn’t as successful as choosing the change you’re most confident you’ll be able to make. Focus on sure bets, such as eating an additional serving of fruit every day rather than overhauling your diet at once: if you picture a 10-point scale of confidence in achieving your goal, where 1 equals no confidence and 10 equals 100% certainty, you should land in the 7-to‑10 zone.

Set time commitments. Pick a date and time to start—Wednesday at breakfast, I’ll add frozen blueberries to cereal—and regular check-in dates: I’ll check my log every week and decide if I should make any changes in my routines to succeed. When setting commitments, outside deadlines can be really helpful. Signing up for a charity run or spring triathlon on a certain date prods you to get a training program under way.

~Harvard Medical School