Setting SMART goals in the New Year

Published on: 2nd January 2020

With the New Year it is sometimes easy to expect too much of ourselves. Some people choose to change their diet, starting a gruelling exercise regime, or save more money. January doesn’t always have to be “doom and gloom”. There are things that you can do to help improve your mood and your wellbeing.

It is important to make sure that the goals and targets that you set for yourself are SMART. Otherwise, we could be setting ourselves up for failure.

SMART goals


Be clear about what it is you want to achieve. Asking yourself a few key questions can help with this, such as:             

  • What?
  • Where?
  • How?
  • When?
  • With who?


How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Think about what you might hear, see or feel, and what changes will occur? Think about the evidence. For example, being happier is not evidence. However, engaging in hobbies that you enjoy and spending more time with your loved ones is as this is something you can evidence.


Is your goal acceptable to you? Think about the cost to you. This isn’t just financial but also things like time, effort etc.


Does your goal work for you. Does it meet your needs and is it relevant to what you aim to achieve?


Think about a deadline and when you want to achieve your goal by. Keep a realistic and flexible timeline that you can stick to.

Goals are a really nice way to help keep us focused and allow us to challenge ourselves to help reach our potential. By putting in place realistic goals and boosting our behaviours, it can help to improve how we feel.

Breaking the cycle

reduced activity →low mood →low energy, lack of motivation

It is often the case that the less we do, the worse we feel. Then, the worse we feel the less we want to do.

By increasing our behaviours and boosting our activities in a SMART way, we can help ourselves in improving our mood. Just remember to be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much too soon. If for example, a marathon runner had been out of training for months we wouldn’t expect them to run a marathon tomorrow. Slow, steady and realistic progress is the way to go.

increased activity → improved mood →more energy, increased motivation

But what if I’m not motivated?

When we feel low or anxious, motivation can often become difficult and sometimes we notice changes in our behaviours. We may withdraw from things by making excuses to not go or put things off.

By making SMART goals for yourself, you can help to build motivation and structure.

Action = Motivation

By engaging with tasks it helps us build a sense of achievement, success and confidence. This then supports our motivation to continue. The key is to be kind to yourself and not to set yourself up to fail.

Some other tips to help with motivation

Think about why you are doing what you are doing it. Why is your goal/change in behaviour important to you?

Take an “outside-in approach”. Think about how you feel once you have completed the task or goal and use that to help focus your motivation.

Take the time to think and reflect

Once you have completed your goal, it is important to take a moment to consider how it went. Ask, "what would I do differently next time?" All of this information allows us to then move forward and improve our SMART. Notice the good as well as the bad. 

Where can I get extra support?

steps2change offer short term psychological support for individuals living in Lincolnshire. We support people who may feel depressed, anxious, worried or stressed.  If you would like to access our service, self-refer via our website. You can also call 0303 123 4000 or speak to your GP.