Making S.M.A.R.T New Year’s Resolutions


Tuesday, December-31-13
By Dave Hood

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.” – Abraham Lincoln

In the winter of 1977, when I was eighteen years old, I decided to take up distance running. I set a goal of running 10 km by the spring. I had never run before and knew nothing about running. And so, to achieve this dream, I read a few books and magazines on how to train for distance running, purchased proper jogging shoes and a nylon jacket, learned how to dress in layers, began warming up and then running every day, increased my distance every week, joined the high school track and field team and ran a 3,000 meter race that spring. Though I didn’t win the race, I became hooked on the benefits of running, especially the “high of running.” Running made me feel good, like meditating. For the next 25 years, running became one of the foundations of my life. I ran to maintain my strength and stamina, dissolve mental stress and physical tension, feel good about myself. Though I didn’t recognize what I had done at the time to achieve the dream of running, I learned later in life that my experience of running was based on my decision to set a goal with a specific date of accomplishment, and  establish a plan of action or strategy for achieving this goal by a specific date.

It is New Year’s Eve, and 2013 is almost history. For many people, New Year’s is a time of reflection and establishing a new direction for the New Year. This direction begins by writing down New Year’s Resolutions. Some popular resolutions are losing weight, getting fit, quitting smoking, breaking some other bad habit, saving for a rainy day. The problem with setting resolutions is that most people fail to carry out their resolutions. Distractions, unexpected change, disinterest, insufficient time, setting unrealistic goals all prevent the person from accomplishing their resolutions. Many people believe that setting goals or resolution is constraining, like being shackled to a ball and chain. The author,  Anais Nin, once said,“I made no resolutions for the New Year.  The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me. ” 

I’ve also learned that the main reason we don’t achieve our resolution is because of “a lack of motivation.” To achieve a goal or resolution, the person must “do it now” and “do whatever is required” to accomplish the step, task, dream, goal, change. To accomplish a resolution, the person must also make the resolution a high priority in their life. So, if you desire to become a writer, you must be motivated to write, ideally every day. I made writing a habit by journal writing about my life. Almost three years ago, after journal writing for five years in a notebook, I decided to setup and post creative writing to a blog. If you are serious about writing, you’ll want to polish your writing craft. To help you improve your writing style, you might want to purchase and read a few books on how-to write, such as “ON Writing Well” by William Zinsser, “Sin and Syntax” by Constance Hale, “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, “The Writer’s Portable Mentor” by Priscilla Long. If you are motivated to write, you’ll also want to learn from the masters, so you should read poetry, fiction, short stories, essays, novels, written by the best writers, such as Raymond Carver and Mary Oliver. If you are driven to become a writer, you’ll also want to join a writing community and enroll in a few writing courses at college or university. If you are really passionate, you’ll also set up a blog, where you publish your best writing. To become a writer or anything else, you must be motivated. Otherwise, you will lose interest and won’t take action. Motivation makes a wish become a habit.

From my life experience of running, I learned the benefits of setting goals. First, a goal provides focus. Every day, you know that your goal is on your to-do list for the day. In a short time, the goal becomes a habit. Secondly, a goal provides you with direction. Instead of waking up each morning, not knowing what to do, you have a list of goals to achieve. Your time and energy is focused on the next step of the goal. Thirdly, setting realistic goals will motivate you to accomplish the goal, providing you review your goal and progress each week. Finally, setting goals adds meaning and purpose to daily life, which elevates the emotions of pleasure and enjoyment and satisfaction. Five years ago, I set out to learn everything I could about creative writing. The experiences of reading poetry, short fiction, essays, and writing have enriched my life, provided additional meaning and purpose and pleasure. Reading and writing will always be important leisure activities, something I can do without the need for people. Clearly, I am happier now than I was five years ago.

New Year’s resolutions are another name for “setting goals.” The only difference is that you make resolutions at the end of the year. To be successful, you should use the S.M.A.R.T goal approach to achieving New Year’s Resolutions. S.M.A.R.T is an acronym for establishing specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based goals. To establish a specific goal, write down a detailed description of what you desire to achieve. To make a goal measurable, you must determine if you are making progress. What is your method of evaluating or judging your progress? To establish a resolution or goal, you’ll also want to set achievable goals. Do you have the time, knowledge, skills, desire, and inspiration? Or will you require some training or experience or mentoring? To achieve your goals, you must select goals that are relevant to your life. Are you motivated? Is the goal important? Will accomplishing the goal result in personal improvement or additional meaning and purpose to your life? Next, you must set a specific date for achieving the goal or resolution. Finally, you must establish a plan of action or strategy that will explain how to achieve the goal or resolution. This plan or strategy is like a map to success. Success is attainment of the dream, goal, and resolution.

Two years ago, I wrote down the following resolution: to become an excellent digital photographer. I set a specific deadline of 2 years and wrote out the following S.M.A.R.T Goal:
• Become an excellent photographer by January 2014.
• Take courses in digital photography at university.
• Learn how to see creatively and to compose the elements in a photograph.
• Take photographs of different genre every day.
• Master the digital darkroom of Lightroom and Photoshop.
• Read books on digital photography.
• Study the masters of photography, such as Arnold Newman.
• Learn the art of lighting–ambient light and studio light and off-camera flash.
• Create a photography blog and post some of my best digital images to it.
• Establish a digital photography business.

It is now New Year’s Eve, 2013, and I have achieved this resolution. You can see my work at or . I accomplished this resolution because I was motivated to do what  was required to become an excellent photographer, and to make the effort every day, not next week or next year, to do something that developed by knowledge, skills, talents. First, I focused on learning how to setup the camera, such as how to select  the settings of  ISO and RAW. Then I focused on learning how to use creative exposures, such as aperture priority and shutter priority. I also read a book each week on some photography topic, such as genre, composition, lighting, mastering Photoshop for photographers. Most importantly, I practised what I had learned by taking photographs each day and then edited them in Lightroom 4 and 5, as well as Photoshop. (The software of choice for serious digital photographers.) In the last two years, I have taken more than 40,000 photographs with my Nikon D7000. I accomplished the resolution because I set a realistic goal—to become “an excellent photographer,” something I was capable of accomplishing. I measured my success by taking courses, getting feedback from professional photographers who taught the courses, and from the responses of viewers from postings of digital images to various social media sites, such as Facebook and WordPress and Flickr. I accomplished this resolution because I set a deadline and specific plan of action.

Many people will tell you that setting goals or resolutions are pointless because you’ll never achieve them. You will lose interest or become distracted by something else in your life. Or a sudden change will move you in another direct. I disagree. I believe you can achieve many things in life by establishing goals or New Year’s resolutions, and then working toward achieving them by a specific date. To achieve a goal, resolution, dream, you begin by writing down the details, then writing out a plan of action, then taking a step each day toward achieving the goal or resolution. Steve Maraboli, author and educator, tells us: “If you have a goal, write it down. If you do not write it down, you do not have a goal – you have a wish.” I have learned that many people don’t achieve their dreams because they don’t take action. Instead, they continue to say, “I’ll do it when I have time, or money, or energy. I’ll do it in the future.” And so, the goal, or desire, resolution remains just dreams, wishful thinking.

Make 2014 the year you “do it now. Just do it! Do what it takes to achieve your resolutions!”

Additional Reading
If you desire to learn how to set and achieve goals or generate a bucket list and plan for ticking off the items on this list, I recommend you read “Creating Your Best Life: the Ultimate Life List Guide” by Caroline Adams Miller and Dr. Michael B. Frisch. It is one of the best books on setting and achieving life goals. Caroline Adams Miller writes at the back: “In my coach training and busy practise, I have discovered that successful people almost always have life lists.”


About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
This entry was posted in Creative Nonfiction, Creative Writing, Goals, New Year's Resolutions, Personal Essay and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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