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Three Steps for Writing S.M.A.R.T. Achievable Goals for the New Year

new year goals photoDo you want the New Year 2012 to be a fabulously successful kind of year for you? Then start off with writing achievable S.M.A.R.T. goals instead of New Year’s resolutions.

The start of a New Year is great time to gather fresh energy and go after what you want in life. It’s a perfect occasion to reflect on your values, your dreams, and how you want your life and your relationships to be.

A 3-step process is outlined below to help you write goals specifically designed to energize the optimal emotional states that create the focus and momentum you need to make them a reality. Read all 3 steps through before beginning.

STEP 1. Schedule a Mini-Retreat to Reflect on Life Aspirations

The first step is to schedule a time away from distractions, a 10 to 15 minute retreat, where you may relax and contemplate on your life, aspirations, what you want and need in your life and relationships.

Why a relaxed reflective, relaxing retreat?

For one, your brain works optimally in a relaxed state. You’re more likely to come up with ideas for what would make life more wonderful for you, perhaps ones you didn’t even know you had! Another reason is to get past the “I don’t know what I want” response that is so common. In some situations, it’s healthy not to let ourselves off the hook. A final reason is simply this: Hopefully, this experience will be so positive for you that you make taking a 10 minute relaxing retreat a daily practice, a daily gift to yourself and brain!

So schedule a few minutes to mindfully reflect on your values and aspirations, and as you do, explore several areas you wish to tackle to make a few changes or perhaps completely overhaul. It may be getting more organized at home or in your business. Or, you may wish to invigorate your lifestyle with healthy eating choices, regular exercise and a balanced program. You may want to break a habit such as smoking or watching too much TV. Or perhaps you’d like to energize your love relationship to increase the fun, closeness and passion – or even to improve relationships in general.

So, here are a few suggestions for scheduling a (delightful) reflective retreat:

  • Start by finding a quiet place. Put on soft background instrumental music, close your eyes, and, for a few minutes, focus on your breathing, taking long, slow, deep breaths.
  • Once relaxed, consciously choose to be in (and feel) a state of gratitude. Begin by feeling grateful for each breath you take, for your life, your body, your health, and so on.
  • In this optimal state, smile and imagine a more successful and joyful you. (Gently release thoughts of doubt, one by one when they surface…and return to feeling grateful.)
  • Feeling grateful, picture yourself living your life as you dream it – as if you it were already a reality. At home. At school or work. At leisure. How do you want the world to be? Hold onto a positive, healthy and vibrant vision that feels right for you as you complete this exercise. As much as possible, strive for balance, reflecting on as many facets of your life as possible, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational.

STEP 2. Write Your Goals Down

Once you complete the mini retreat, spend the next 10 or 15 minutes putting down your thoughts, ideas for goals on paper (have a pad of paper and pencil handy). At this point, freely write down as many goals as possible that come to mind. Include details, such as positive emotions of happiness, confidence, a sense of purpose, and so on, that you want to achieve.

Why written goals? Written goals strengthen your own personal commitment. Studies also show writing your goals dramatically increase chances of achieving them.

STEP 3. Re-write the goals as “S.M.A.R.T.” goals

In this final step, first, look at what you wrote down in Step 2, and rate each goal, as follows: 1 – Top Priority; 2 – Very Important; and 3 – Important. Then, select 3 to 5 goals to work on, starting with your Top Priority goals.

Finally, follow the guidelines and rules below to re-write each of your selected goals in a way proven by research to best inspire the emotions, behaviors and momentum you need to achieve them. This process is designed to directly influence the part of your mind, the subconscious, responsible for the formation (or changing) of habits. The wording of your goals makes a difference because it directly affects your emotional state, and, it is emotions, and not logic, that determine what behaviors get activated.

Guidelines and rules for writing S.M.A.R.T. goals:

S.M.A.R.T. goals checklist. Here is a checklist to guide you in re-writing your goals:

  • S – Specific and Simple – To influence your subconscious mind directly, a goal needs to be written in short and simple sentences that specifically state what you want. Specifically, what do you want to accomplish?
  • M – Measurable and Meaningful – To energize momentum, write goals in a way that they can be measured as well as inspire and create positive emotional states in you. How will you know that you’ve reached your goal? How will this goal contribute meaningfully to your life?
  • A – As if NOW  – To achieve your goals, understand that your subconscious has no concept of past or future, only the present. It also takes things literally. Understanding this, word your goals “as if” your change has already happened. Can you see the picture of yourself already having this goal?
  • R – Realistic and (some) Risk – To succeed, you need goals that are achievable and realistic, yet also invite you to stretch. For example, you would not list “fly like a bird” as your goal. To do so would mock the process. On the other hand, if a goal doesn’t make you a bit uncomfortable, raise the stakes! What resources do you have to achieve your goal?
  • T – Timed (if applicable) – To add more momentum, including a deadline energizes your mind to organize your activities and helps you realize each goal. When will this goal be achieved?

S.M.A.R.T. goals rules. Here are a few more rules to follow when you re-write your goals:

  • Write short sentences to describe your vision.
  • Write each sentence in the present tense, as if you already have what you aspire.
  • Phrase each sentence in the positive. Instead of “I don’t eat junk food,” say instead, “I choose foods that are nutritious and delicious.
  • Include inspiring verbs that produce positive emotional states in you, such as: enjoy, benefit, take pleasure in, relish, savor, appreciate, delight in, and so on.


  • “I choose to eat and enjoy nutritious foods daily.”
  • “I enjoy exercising for an hour 6 times a week.”
  • “I look forward to a date night with my spouse each week.”
  • “I daily express my love to the persons that mean a lot to me.”
  • “I easily take 2-5 minutes to organize my desk before leaving my office.

In sum, your goals are as powerful as the thoughts they energize!

Take a risk.  Allow your imagination to take over for a while, and set goals that inspire, motivate and stretch you. Since what you focus on expands, what you give energy to becomes reality.

Setting goals and writing them down is a powerful way to go after what you want in life and jump over any obstacles or self-doubts that may be presently blocking your or appear along the way. Make this New Year – 2012 – the best ever by writing down your goals, and following the proven steps and guidelines above to optimize your chances of achieving them.


Photo by Evan Courtney

Three Steps for Writing S.M.A.R.T. Achievable Goals for the New Year

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

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APA Reference
Staik, A. (2020). Three Steps for Writing S.M.A.R.T. Achievable Goals for the New Year. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 7, 2020, from


Last updated: 15 Jan 2020
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