The problem is that we often only follow through with these good intentions for a week or so. The more strong-minded among us may last a month, but sooner or later we all end up falling back into the same old ways which we tried so hard to change.

Why does this happen? And how can we improve our goal-setting strategies?

Often our goals transform into failures because they’re not solid enough to maintain our motivation, or because they’re perhaps too hard to reach.

According to psychologists, if we want to welcome a change and make New Year’s resolutions for real, we must use a strategy called SMART Goals, which outlines the criteria of successful goal-setting.

This model is efficient and can be applied to all areas of our lives, from work to health to sport.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics that our goals should have to be achievable. These criteria are found within the acronym SMART:

S= Specific

M= Measurable

A= Attainable

R= Relevant

T= Timely

The first criterion is “Specific”. What does that mean?

Perhaps, the most common New Year’s resolution is that of leading a healthier lifestyle. This concept is far too broad. Therefore, it’s crucial to add certain details, asking yourself what it means to become healthier. For example, being “healthier” may mean losing weight, drinking less alcohol, eating less sugar or doing more exercise.

The more specific and narrow the goal is, the easier it will be to reach your target.

The second criterion is “Measurable”.

Every goal should be measurable, by establishing a method of measuring its progress.

For example, when tracking your goal of living a healthier life, you could ask yourself: how many kilograms do I want to lose in a year? Exactly how much alcohol or sugar do I want to allow myself every month? How many minutes of exercise am I able to do in a week? Where would I do it – at the gym or at home? Having quantifiable goals allows you to better identify whether you’re making progress. From this perspective, recording your daily or weekly progress can help you maintain your motivation.

Goals should also be “Attainable”.

It’s important to always know your limits. Goals should never be unachievable, otherwise you risk becoming more discouraged than when you began. Considering possible obstacles which could arise along the way, can help you get a full picture of the situation and assess your goals more realistically.

Naturally, achieving a goal means considering and accepting responsibility before you even begin. For example, if losing 20 kilograms doesn’t seem very doable, it’s certainly better to commit to losing just 10.

Goals also need to be “Relevant”.

That is, they should be important to you and reflect your desires. Committing yourself for a year to something which isn’t important to you makes no sense. Considering your desires, interests and passions while making goals is one of the keys to rendering them more attainable. A goal you deeply care about will be more relevant than one which only vaguely interests you.

Finally, goals must be “Timely”.

It’s useful to set a precise date by which you want to achieve your goal, determining a time-frame that can help you identify and implement specific actions needed to reach your goal.

It’s often useful to divide long-term goals into steps. For example, if you want to lose 10 kilograms in a year, you could break this down to one kilogram a month. By creating these steps, you will have less of a chance of losing motivation in the long run. Making a constant effort incentivises you to achieve your goals and ensures you get there.

I advise everyone to sit down and begin to make a strategic plan to reach your New Year’s resolutions. This way you can avoid failure, which can have a negative impact on your self-esteem.

Another piece of advice I’d like to offer is that you also plan small rewards along the way. Every time you reach a weekly or monthly target, you should treat yourself. Obviously, if you’re goal is to become healthier, avoid rewarding yourself with a big piece of chocolate cake... an evening out with friends would be a much better option.