Happy New Year! Did you set a New Year’s resolution for 2021? Following the end of such a difficult year, I know many of us are wanting to start out this year strong.

However… I also know I’m not the only one who’s set a resolution on December 31 only to have ‘failed’ by the end of January. Often this is because the resolutions I set for myself are just unrealistic. Sure, “new year, new me” sounds great, but what does it really mean?

Luckily, there is a quick and easy template to follow to help create goals. These are called SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). This can take a large and impossible goal, like ‘new year, new me’, and break it down into smaller steps that can actually work and have long-lasting results!

Creating SMART Goals:

Specific: Take a look at what your goal is and why you want to achieve it. For example, “I want to be happier” is valid, but isn’t specific. What makes you happy? What can you do every day to be a little bit happier? It’s helpful if the goal is positive (I will do x) rather than negative (I won’t do x). If you’ve heard that practicing gratitude can help increase positive thinking and happiness, then your goal can sound like, “I will practice gratitude every day”.

Measurable: How will you know when you’re successful? What action steps can you take every day to work towards your goal? For example, “I will practice gratitude by writing 3 gratitude statements every morning before starting my work day”.

Attainable: Is this goal something that you can actually do? If you are a chronic snoozer, like me, then completing a gratitude list before work might not be attainable. This step helps set you up for success, so feelings of frustration or guilt don’t get in the way of reaching your goal. So if you’re like me, your goal might actually be, “I will practice gratitude by writing 3 gratitude statements every evening before bed”.

Relevant: Is this something you want to do, or is it something that you feel like you have to do? Is this something that could help you reach your ultimate goal of feeling happier? If practicing gratitude is relevant to you, then let’s continue onto the last step of our SMART goal.

Time- Bound: Lastly, the goal should have an end date. This can give you a chance to evaluate whether or not this goal is working for you. This can sound like, “I will practice gratitude by writing 3 gratitude statements every evening before bed for 4 weeks”. After 4 weeks, evaluate this practice. Has practicing gratitude impacted your happiness? If yes, then well done! If not, well done! You completed your goal, and that is something to be proud of! You can now choose to continue this practice or try something new.

SMART Goals for Couples

You can even apply this template to your goals as a couple! Use the SMART goal template during a conversation with your partner (or during therapy!) as a way to set an intention for your relationship. Not sure where to start? Check out the following example for some inspiration!

Specific: We want to reconnect physically, so we will increase our physical touch.

Measurable: We will increase our physical touch through one six-second kiss per day (it’s recommended by John Gottman, a leading relationship researcher!).

Attainable: We are able to achieve this in the morning before work. So, we will increase our physical touch through one six-second kiss per day before work during the work week.

Relevant: We both love kissing each other, but feel we are too disconnected when we leave the house in the morning. This kiss could help us to feel connected as we go about our day. Remember- this needs to be something you both want to do!

Time-Bound: We will practice the six second kiss for 4 weeks. After 4 weeks, we will come back together to evaluate our level of physical connection and if this practice has made an impact. We can continue or change the goal as needed from there.

If you are in need of any support creating or working towards your goals, we are here to help! Change is a journey. Whether you are working towards individual change or change within your relationship, therapy and SMART goals are tools to assist in that journey!