How to…actually reach those dreamy new-year’s resolutions

By Helena Louw, Occupational Therapist

You’ve probably heard about the importance of defining your goals with specific, measurable outcomes which are achievable and relevant to your setting and intended to be reached within a particular time frame (aka SMART goals). Useful as this practice is, it may help more with determining exactly what you want and whether you’ve reached your goals, than with the act of reaching them.


So, how do you go from knowing what you want to achieve, to actually putting in the work and getting it done? When and where do you start? What do you prioritize? How do you make time for practicing your sought-after new skills, health-promoting hobbies or life-changing habits while still being swamped with everyday emergencies and clutter, both at home and at work?

A simple yet effective strategy for approaching goal achievement is to break down your goals into objectives (i.e. smaller goals which may be more easily achieved within a shorter time-span) and to develop detailed action steps for reaching each objective.

For example, if your overall goal is to improve your fitness and health by starting a new exercise routine, you may break down this goal into objectives such as:

  1. Exploring a few different types of exercise to find out which one(s) you enjoy, and which will provide the health/ fitness benefits that you are looking for.
  2. Obtaining access to those exercises, e.g. joining a gym, dance classes, running clubs, etc.
  3. Buying the necessary gear (starting with basics until you decide what you really want to get into)
  4. Securing a form of support to help you initiate and keep you accountable for maintaining your new habit, e.g. hiring a personal trainer, joining an online- or app-based fitness community, getting a friend or family member on board.
  5. Fitting the new exercise routine into your schedule (and budget)

Following this, list the 3-5 most important things you need to do first in order to achieve each objective. For example, to reach objective A above, you might do the following things:

  1. Ask around/ search on Google/ read in a magazine about different types of exercise and the health- and fitness-related benefits they offer.
  2. Attend free classes at a couple of different programs running in your area (instructors will often give one free class in order for a person to decide whether they like that type of exercise).
  3. Join friends or family at some of their fitness/ exercise related activities, e.g. go rock-climbing or hiking together.
  4. Once you identify an exercise/ sport routine which you may potentially be interested in, talk to someone who have pursued it consistently for some time, to find out what the long-term benefits and costs are.

Continue listing action steps for each objective. Action steps should be small and enticing enough for you to be able to jump right in and start doing them immediately. By the time you reach the end of your action step list, you will have experienced a significant of fulfillment from reaching each smaller objective and will be well away towards achieving your goal.

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