Building Habits

Set a SMART goal

Many people fail to create new habits because their goals are too vague. “I’m going to eat healthy,” or “I’m going to exercise more,” doesn't give you a direct plan of action. How will you know if you achieve your goal? Creating a SMART goal gives you a plan of action that leads to a successful habit change.

Creating a SMART goal gives you a plan of action that leads to a successful habit change.

How do you create a SMART goal?

1. Pick one habit that you'd like to create based on your focus area. The focus areas are sleep, stress, exercise, nutrition, social interaction, and cognitive training.

2. Create a SMART goal for your new habit. SMART stands for:

S - Specific

M - Measurable

A - Achievable

R - Realistic

T - Time limited

The S in SMART stands for "specific," but it can also mean "small." Start with a specific and small goal and you're more likely to start and maintain your new habit.

Sure, you might want to exercise for 30 minutes a day. But, starting out with fewer minutes will make you more likely to integrate your new habit into your life. Working out 5 minutes a day is more achievable — that's the A in smart. And, it's measurable and time limited — the M and T.

How well you stick with a new habit can be predicted by how much you have to change your daily routine. When a new habit causes you to change your lifestyle in a major way, it’s more difficult to keep it up. To create a new habit that will stick like glue, focus on the R of your SMART goal.

That's it, we've hit every part of the smart goal. If we want to make it even more specific and measurable, it sounds like this:

“I am going to exercise in the morning before work, 2 days this week, for 5 minutes each time.”

When you've worked out twice this week for 5 minutes each time, then you've hit your goal. Congrats! Now make a new goal that builds on the last. You can increase the time to 10 minutes. Or, think about bumping it up to 3 days a week.


  • Riekert, K. A., Ockene, J. K., & Pbert, L. undefined. (2014). The Handbook of Health Behavior Change (4th ed., Vol. 1). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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