Advice Assisted Living

How to Make SMART Resolutions in the New Year

An older man and woman walking arm in arm

Every January brings the promise of a bright and shiny new year—full of big plans, endless possibilities, and of course, New Year’s resolutions. In an ideal world, we would get better at sticking to our goals with time and experience. Unfortunately, setting goals doesn’t necessarily get easier with age. That’s why we’ve compiled some handy tips based on the SMART method to help you and your loved ones set and keep your resolutions, and it’s not too late to get started!

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. When a goal is made with all these qualities in mind, you’re more likely to stay motivated and stick to your plans.


Making a goal more specific narrows the focus of our efforts so we don’t overextend ourselves or lose sight of our finish line. Having a clearly defined goal also makes it easier to hold ourselves accountable. For example, instead of setting a goal to learn watercolor painting, which is broad and has no set timeline, you could specify you want to learn how to paint watercolor landscapes in time to paint your grandson a beach scene for his birthday.


In making a goal measurable, we make it more concrete. Try asking yourself quantifiable and measurable questions about your goal like: How many? How much? How long? How will I know when it’s accomplished? For example, if you want to get in the habit of exercising more, how far do you want to walk each day? If you want to get outside more, set a goal of a number of minutes or hours to spend outdoors getting fresh air each week, weather permitting.


If you have a bigger goal in mind, try splitting it up into smaller stepping stones that will be easier for you to reach. Instead of planning to finish a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in a single sitting, try making a plan to assemble a certain aspect of the puzzle each day. Work on the border one day, sky pieces the next day, flower pieces the following day, and so on. When you set attainable milestones, you’re more likely to stay on track to accomplish your goal.


Setting realistic goals means being honest with yourself about how you’ll go about achieving them. For example, if your goal is to grow your own roses, be realistic about how you can make that happen. Can you dedicate time to caring for them? If your honest answer is “probably not,” consider researching herbs or plants you can grow in window planters or inside your home.


When making your goal, setting a deadline can help you achieve it. Give yourself enough time to accomplish your goal without becoming stressed, but don’t allow yourself so much time that you lose your motivation. Having a deadline in place will also help you avoid letting smaller day-to-day tasks take priority over your larger goals. For example, instead of saying that you’d like to learn how to play a new song on the piano eventually or sometime soon, challenge yourself by setting a goal to learn the song within a month, just in time for your next get-together with family or friends.

Extra Tips for Setting SMART Goals

Remember to be kind to yourself. If you don’t achieve everything you set out to, pinpoint aspects you could have done differently, dust yourself off, and try again. Don’t feel discouraged if your first attempt doesn’t go as planned.

Reward yourself for the small steps you take in the direction of something bigger. When it comes to chasing after a larger goal that will take some time to reach, be sure to pat yourself on the back along the way. Taking time to recognize your milestones will help keep you motivated. If your goal is to start a book club, don’t wait until it’s a smashing success to celebrate. Congratulate yourself on each new member you’re able to bring aboard.

When the going gets tough (as it inevitably does) and you start to consider giving up, remember why you started in the first place. Think of what originally led you to make the goal and what you wanted to accomplish for yourself. Keep your flame of inspiration burning at all times.

The bottom line? Goals are easier to achieve when you structure them. This new year, remember the SMART acronym when setting your future goals—you may be surprised at how much you’re able to accomplish! As always, all of us at Benchmark Senior Living are rooting for you—and are here to help if you need it.

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