Make Your 2021 Resolutions Stick with These Goalsetting Tips

A typical New Year’s resolution is doomed to fail – that is, if you believe in statistics alone. 

According to Tacoma physical therapist Chad McCann, research shows that around 80 percent of people who make resolutions on the first of the year have already fallen off the wagon by Valentine’s Day. 

That includes two of the most popular resolutions made throughout the U.S. each year: to exercise more and to lose weight. 

“Fortunately, statistics don’t control the success or failure of any life change,” said McCann, physical therapist of 3Dimensional Physical Therapy & Sports Conditioning in Tacoma. “Medical professionals across the spectrum agree that success comes through methodical goalsetting that helps you ‘see the change.’” 

One way to achieve “resolutionary success” is to mirror the process of goal setting and achievement long held by the disciplines of physical therapy and rehabilitation, said McCann. Why? 

“Physical therapy is a health profession that’s results-driven based on processes that depend on setting individual goals that are specific, clear and personal to each patient,” said McCann. “Even the most earnest and motivated person can fall into the trap of setting goals that are too vague.” 

“So, in physical therapy, we opt for and practice a method of goalsetting that focuses on being incredibly specific.” 

The method often advocated by physical therapists, like McCann, is the SMART method of setting goals. 

A simple acronym, SMART advocates for the setting of goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant, and timed. Here’s how McCann breaks down of each step: 


Don’t just throw out a general goal; be sure to include all the important W’s in your goal: who, what, where, why and why. Rather than saying, “I’d like to lose weight” be more specific by stating, “I want to lose 30 pounds by summer so I can go backpacking without experiencing joint pain.” 


Always set concrete marks that allow you to measure your goal. Include a long-term mark (e.g., lose 30 pounds by summer) as well as benchmarks along the way (e.g., lose 8 pounds by the end of January, 13 pounds by the end of February, etc). 


Your goal shouldn’t be easy to achieve, but you must have the attitude, ability, skill and financial capacity to achieve it. Starting with a solid foundation, attainability is something that can develop over time.  


Anyone can set a goal, but are you willing and able to work toward this goal? In other words, are there any irrefutable roadblocks that can and will hinder your progress? Typically, if you believe it, then it’s more than likely realistic. 


Don’t just set your goal for “whenever.” Set a challenging yet realistic timeline, be it to lose a specific amount of weight by your sibling’s wedding or to be in shape by the spring’s first 5K race. Make your goal tangible. 

Along with utilizing the SMART method, McCann suggests you share your goals, benchmarks, successes and failures with others. Surrounding yourself with a circle of support can help you stay the course and battle through difficult stretches. 

This circle can include your physical therapist, who can be there to help you conquer physical limitations, such as weakness, injury and pain, that can keep you from reaching success. 


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