My New Year’s resolution for 2012 was to exercise—yes, I only made one resolution this year because I thought I had a better chance of keeping it if I focused on a single goal. And now, a month into the new year, I can report that I have yet to work out a single time. Oh, I have good excuses: it’s been too cold out, and I have a cold. I tried to convince myself that these are legitimate excuses, but in fact we’ve had a mild winter this year, and it wouldn’t kill me to exercise with a runny nose.

At least I’m in good company: studies show that most people do not keep their New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps you’ve set some goals for yourself this year and maybe you’re doing a lot better than I am in keeping them so far. But what if there were a way to ensure your success? There is, and it’s incredibly simple. Whether we meet our goals or fail to do so lies in how we formulate those goals. Russ Harris, the author of “The Happiness Trap”, describes how SMART goals can lay the groundwork for success. The key is to choose just one goal, the way I did, and then turn it into a SMART goal.

S=Specific
M=Meaningful
A=Adaptive
R=Realistic
T= Time-bound

Specific goals are narrowly focused and measurable; in other words, you can track your progress. A goal is meaningful if it’s in keeping with your values; you can easily answer the question, “why am I doing this?” When you really believe in something, it’s much more likely that you’ll be motivated to keep at it. A goal is adaptive when it takes us in a positive direction in our lives. In order for a goal to be realistic, we need to have the resources (financial, health, time and skills) to achieve it. Finally, it’s important to set a deadline or timeframe in which to meet your goal.

When I think about my values and use the S.M.A.R.T. goals model, I am able to set a goal that has a better chance of success. Here is my new goal: Because I value my physical and mental health, I will run 2 miles two to three times per week in my neighborhood until May 1st. I will wear my new running gear (I requested workout clothes as a holiday gift) and let my husband and a close friend (who happens to be a personal trainer) know about my goal so that I have to be accountable to someone besides myself. Now that you know, feel free to check in with me to see how I’m doing with my goal.

What are your goals for 2012? To lose weight? To enjoy life more? To communicate better with your partner? I would love to talk with you about how you can make a SMARTer start to the new year.