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If you’re like most Americans, you made a New Year’s resolution. It’s now February. How’s that goal coming along?

Most people ditch their resolutions by February, and most have the same resolution every year: to lose weight and get in shape. You may blame lack of motivation and willpower for your limited results, but most often, they can be traced back to the goal itself. No matter how much you want the end result, if your goal is ill-conceived, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even begin.

Anyone can set a goal, but the key to achieving it is setting a S.M.A.R.T. goal. Goals are meant to motivate, inspire, hold you accountable and track your progress along the way. Not all goals do, however. Many goals just scratch the surface, but a S.M.A.R.T. goal is stated clearly and sets you up with a plan of attack, so there is no question what you need to do.

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Is the goal SPECIFIC?

“I want to lose weight” isn’t specific enough. How much weight do you want to lose? By when do you want to lose it? You need to get detailed. It’s best to break up big goals, such as losing a significant amount of weight, into smaller 5- to 10-pound goals to keep you motivated.

Is the goal MEASURABLE?

You need to be able to measure your progress, or how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? There has to be a clear finish line, and that usually means numbers. If your goal is to lose weight, how many pounds do you want to lose? If your goal is to start working out consistently, how many days per week will do it? You need to measure to stay on track, and when you put a number on it, it makes it clear-cut: You either did, or you didn’t.

Is the goal ATTAINABLE?

Is this goal possible? If so, this is where you set up your game plan. This is the “how” portion of setting your goal. If your goal is to eat healthier, you can add one serving of fruit or vegetables to each meal. What steps can you lay out that will move you toward your goal?

Is the goal REALISTIC?

While wanting to lose 50 pounds might be realistic for some, it is not for others. Even if it is a realistic amount of weight, aiming to lose it in three months isn’t realistic either, no matter what “The Biggest Loser” says. Don’t be afraid to go slow and steady. Hitting your goals on time or even earlier is much more motivating than setting the bar too high and getting discouraged when you fall short.


You need a deadline; otherwise, there is no sense of urgency and you’ll have the same goal next time. Without a time-sensitive goal, it becomes very easy to say, “Oh, I’ll get back on track tomorrow … ” and we all know that tomorrow never comes.

What does a S.M.A.R.T. goal look like?

“I will lose 15 pounds by May 2013. I will do this by losing 1-2 pounds a week through three-times-weekly workouts.”

The great thing? You don’t have to wait until next New Year’s to clean up your goals. Do it today. If you aren’t on track with where you pictured your New Year’s resolution, smarten it up a bit.

Kelly Turner:; Turner is an ACE (American Council on Exercise) certified-personal trainer and fitness writer.; on twitter @KellyTurnerFit.

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