Create SMART goals this new year

by Stephanie Underhill on Sunday 08 January 2023

3 min read

It’s that time of year again. Where you take stock of the year just gone and think towards your goals for the new year. What are you working towards? What are you planning to achieve?

Maybe you’ve already got some answers up your sleeve. Or maybe you’ve been too busy to give your new year goals a single thought. Either way, we’re here to help.

Let’s start by pointing out that while setting goals at the start of a new year may be beneficial for some, the truth is you can make new goals at any point throughout the year. In fact, planning beyond the first month can be crucial to success. Research suggests it can take up to 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. So planning ahead it crucial to success. And it could be why 80% of us lose momentum with new year goals by February.

In this article, we’re going to equip and empower you to follow through on goals that crop up throughout the year – not just at the beginning. It starts with learning how to set SMART goals.

What are SMART goals?

You’ve probably heard of the SMART acronym before. It stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. And it’s a way of setting a clear intention by putting specific parameters around the goal to help you achieve it. Here are the steps you take to set a SMART goal:


First, identify exactly what you want to achieve and what steps you’ll take to get there. For example, a goal might be: To build upper-body strength by doing push-ups every day. (Note: This is more specific than simply ‘build strength’.)


Now, put a number on it. For example: To build upper-body strength by scaling up to 50 confident push-ups each day.


Look at the goal you’ve set ask yourself: is it realistic? Following on with our push-ups example, we say YES! Anyone can train up to do 50 push-ups a day. 


Take a look at what you want to achieve, and ask yourself ‘why’? In this case, we know that doing push-ups works your triceps, pecs and shoulders, so it’s a great exercise to assist with building upper body strength. 


Finally, give yourself a timeframe so you stay motivated to actually reach your goal. Yep, it’s deadline time. For example, your final SMART goal might become: To build upper-body strength by scaling up to 50 confident push-ups each day by the end of April 2023.

Why set SMART goals

There are plenty of benefits to goal-setting. And that glowing sense of working towards something meaningful is certainly one of them! Here are some other benefits to setting SMART goals:

It can improve your focus

A vague ambition can be difficult to work towards, but a SMART goal will trigger behaviour changes and guide your focus.  

It could inspire you to get moving

Physiologically, setting goals will mobilise your energy and lead to greater effort. Research into goal-setting shows that all organisms rely on goals to trigger actions. Even plants, for example, will continue performing the right actions day after day because experience shows it allows them to succeed in surviving and growing.

It can benefit your mental health – Looking at an end-goal can be overwhelming, but SMART goal setting gives you a reason and a process for working towards it. Setting goals has been shown to help reduce anxiety.

How to choose your goals

So what if you don’t have any goals in mind right now? That’s okay. Like we said, you can set goals any time throughout the year.

Why not set a time each month to sit and think about some things you might like to work towards? Here are some examples:

  • Meditate for 10 minutes before work each day.
  • Journal every night before bed.
  • Go for a walk in your lunch break rather than scrolling on your phone.
  • Pack a healthy lunch three days a week rather than buying it.
  • Try a new gym class every month in 2023.

If you’d like to work towards some SMART fitness or health goals this year, get inspired with a free Virgin Active gym trial.

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