You know about SMART goals – it’s a catchy mnemonic device. But have you tried putting the concept into practice?

S: specific
M: meaningful
A: achievable
R: relevant
T: timebound

Some bright spark added a couple more, to make “smartER”:

E: evaluate
R: reward

Whether you call them New Year’s resolutions, or whether you label them goals or challenges, you can use the SMART(ER) guidelines to help you determine the direction you’d like to take this year.

Specific: what do you want to achieve? What are your reasons? What can you use to motivate you to reach the goal? Pick some specific areas of your life – fitness, diet, habits you want to change – and use them to draw up some stated resolutions.

Meaningful: there are other words that apply here. One of the most heard is “measurable,” and perhaps it has more application in business than “meaningful” does. Personal goals should be meaningful to you, tailored to fit your nature and your ideas, so use them to design your resolutions.

Achievable: set resolutions that are doable. Whether they are goals that will take all year (or longer!) or goals that are short-term and build on one another, there’s no denying you have to be able to get there. If you can’t – or if you believe you can’t – you will only become frustrated and give up.

Relevant: this addresses you as an individual. If your resolutions are based on the current fad, or on what suits your friends, you might not be as focussed and committed. You need goals that are meaningful, but they should also be relevant to you and your lifestyle.

Timebound: you may choose to set a deadline for completion, or you may set up a series of smaller steps to reach your goals. However you prefer to do it, you should have a timeframe in which to accomplish your resolutions, rather than leaving things open-ended.

The two new additions to SMART – E and R – might be worth consideration.

Evaluate: remember in school when you were assigned a comprehensive research paper with a deadline weeks away? Then the mad rush the night before the project was due? Having periodic evaluations will ensure you keep to the timetable you’ve set. If you need to adapt your plan, do so, but checking your progress helps you stay on track.

Reward: ah, now we come to the carrot on a stick. What motivation will keep you working on your resolutions? Whether you reward yourself with new clothes, an all-inclusive gym membership, or even a trip away, earning a prize will spur you on and keep the finish line in sight.

Most importantly, try not to have a rigid all-or-nothing attitude about your resolutions. If you genuinely don’t achieve 100 percent by the end of 2013, all is not lost. Just keep working on them, and you will improve. Perhaps it’s worthwhile to post the following advice where you’ll see it each day: “Progress – not perfection.”

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Kasey Coff is an American living in Cheshire. Just turned 60, she was diagnosed with Type 2 in 2008 and focuses on “lifestyle control” as a means of diabetes management.

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