The secret to making your health goals stick this year

It’s a new year, everything is fresh and clear like a clean slate. It’s time to put your health first and make those positive changes you’ve been thinking about.

But before you make another New Year’s resolution, and potentially join the 80% of people who don’t succeed, why not consider another way, a smarter way.

Let’s look at why smart goal setting is the new way to tackle New Year’s resolutions head on.

Why a resolution may not work

Many resolutions are related to health, such as losing weight, eating better or getting fitter. Making positive changes for a healthier you are worthy aspirations as you enter a new year.

However, it’s estimated that up to 80% of New Year resolutions are not met by those who set them, even with the best of intentions. Indeed, 19 January has been suggested as the date most New Year resolutions fail.

A resolution is defined as “a resolve; a decision or determination”. But you’ll need more than mere determination to succeed.  You need a goal.

Why are goals important?

Goals are your future desire, or outcome put into words. Wanting to go to the gym regularly, eat more vegetables or quit smoking are all goals.

Having a goal focusses your attention on what really matters to you. It enables you to track progress and determine success.

But not all goals are created equal. Research has shown several factors can make goal attainment more likely. One of these is to set a SMART goal.

SMART goals: a strategy for success

A SMART goal is one method for setting goals and stands for for Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic and Timely.


Be as clear and as well thought out as you can. “I want to get fitter” is a start, but a more specific goal such as “I will exercise at the gym for 45 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before work” really packs a punch.


Part of setting a goal is achieving it and celebrating the win. You need a goal that allows you to recognise when you’ve done the hard work. “Walk at least 8500 steps every day” is a physical activity goal that can easily be tracked, achieved and celebrated.


It’s okay to have a big goal but breaking it down into achievable chunks can be much more motivating. “I want to run a marathon” is achievable. But if you’ve never run before, perhaps start with “I will run five kilometres in 30 minutes by the end of April”.  


Sometimes life, family, children, work, health and commitments all get in the way of goal attainment. Before you set your goal, be reasonable in what you can achieve within your own circumstances. You may want to meditate daily for half an hour, but with small children and a house renovation on the go, this may not be the most realistic goal right now.


Set a time frame to keep you on track. Be specific and decisive. “I will include at least five vegetables, across my three meals, a minimum of five days per week for the next month.”

Top tips for goal setting success

  • Go small: Break your goal into smaller steps. This makes it more motivating and achievable
  • Get support: Tell trusted friends or family your goal and ask for their support and encouragement
  • Get visual: Write down your goal and place it somewhere you’ll see it each day for motivation
  • Get tracking: Keep track of your progress. Use a recording sheet like the Active Geelong physical activity recording sheet or use a goal tracking app
  • Get rewarded: From a gold star sticker to a fancy dinner, recognise when you’ve achieved a goal and celebrate your success in a way that is meaningful to you
  • Get over it: Motivation can vary from day to day, week to week. Be kind to yourself when you experience an inevitable set back and get right back on that horse

Health goals toolkit

GMHBA Healthier Together has a range of articles and podcasts to inspire and support you to improve your health, together.