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It’s that time of year again. The time when, for a good month or so, we shop - and eat - ‘til we drop. Then January comes around and we vow never, ever to do it again. Indeed, there is something inexplicably inviting about a fresh start. Like getting a new haircut, or a new car (the former for the poorer of us), January greets us like the smell of new car seats (or expensive salon shampoo). 

The cynics among us might say that New Year’s resolutions are just a way to justify our hedonistic ways. Ate an entire gingerbread house in one sitting? That’s okay. Come January I’m going to start my diet. (And technically ginger is good for you, right?). Love ‘em or hate ‘em, New Year’s resolutions are likely to stick around for as long as the Silly Season does, and who in their right mind would cancel Christmas? (Barring the Grinch of course). So, let’s discuss some common New Year’s resolutions that you will hear in English, as well as some tips to help you reach your goal using the SMART Framework, whether it’s getting fit or learning pogo jumping. There’s no judgment here.

The SMART Framework you say?

Yup. As you may have guessed, SMART is an acronym, and it stands for: Specific; Measurable; Attainable; Relevant, and Time-Bound. We’ll explore this in more detail as we unpack examples of New Year’s resolutions.

NYR #1: I will lose weight. 

We’ve already made mention of the fact that people tend to overeat during the festive season, so it should come as no surprise that many people set themselves the goal of shedding that extra kilo - or five. Unfortunately, ‘losing weight’ is a very general goal, which is why many of us will sadly never be rockin' that ‘bikini bod’ on the beach. Here’s where setting a SMART goal can come in handy. 

Lucy discovered a trick to weighing herself - stepping on the scale with one foot.

First off, this goal should be specific. Do you want to lose 1kg or five? Do you want to get rid of those love handles, or maybe your beer belly? (Hint: Beer may have something to do with it). The more specific your goal, the higher the likelihood that you will achieve it.

NYR #2: I will get fit.

Maybe the elevator was broken one day and you had to climb five flights of stairs and realised, after huffing and puffing for several minutes, that you aren’t as fit as you used to be. So you’ve set yourself the goal of ‘getting in shape’ next year. Well, getting fit means different things for different people. One person might think it means climbing a few flights of stairs, and another climbing Mount Everest.


Layla wanted to get fit so she took up air guitar.


Again, it’s important to be specific: what does ‘getting fit’ mean to you? In addition, your goal must be ‘measurable’. In other words, how are you going to evaluate that you’re reaching your goal? Are you going to monitor your progress using a fitness app? Or use more qualitative data? Like being able to run with your dog for 5km every second day without feeling like your lungs are going to explode. Dogs can function pretty well as a gauge of fitness, unless of course, you have an overweight Labrador that stops to stiff every tree along the route. Then you might have to change your approach. 

NYR #3: I will earn a six-figure salary.

“Money, money, money. It’s so funny, in a rich man’s world.” Maybe you aspire to have that corner office or to have CEO, COO, CIO, CPO, etcetera in your job title. Of course, anything is possible if you work hard enough and have the right skill set, however, the SMART framework focuses on making sure our goals are

Perhaps you’re earning an okayish salary now, so aiming for a better-than-okayish salary would be a worthy goal. You can even write about your treacherous climb up the corporate ladder in your autobiography one day. Everyone loves a rags-to-riches tale.


NYR #4: I will become a/an (insert professional goal).

Perhaps you saw a plane soaring above you and were struck with the desire to become a pilot. That’s super. You’ll get to travel the world and wear a cool hat. But maybe you’re afraid of heights. Or you’re more of a homebody and your idea of travelling is walking the 10 steps from your couch to your fridge. Then becoming a pilot may not be
relevant for you.


Betty found herself breaking out into song at work, much to the chagrin of her colleagues.

Are you a Jamie Oliver wannabee? Maybe you want to enroll in a cooking course, but it doesn’t involve the kind of lactose/gluten/sugar-free vegan Tibetan cooking you want to do and therefore does not align with our ultimate goal. 

NYR #5: I will improve my English (or substitute another learning goal).

Many of us have a desire to better ourselves, be it by taking up a new hobby, learning (or continuing to learn) a language, or possibly studying further. Since 99.9% of you here are learning English (unless you’re just here to read my sparkling prose), we can use this to tie up our conversation about SMART goals.

Specific: Instead of saying you want to improve your English, try to be specific about what you would like to achieve. Do you want to improve your fluency? Your listening skills? Is General English or Business English your focus?

Measurable: Luckily, there are many ways to measure your progress in English. A good language school will offer regular tests to evaluate your progress. Many textbooks offer practice tests, and there are also several level tests that you can do online. 

Attainable: You’re a pre-intermediate student, and you want to reach advanced. In one month. Easy peasy right? Well, technically it takes at least six weeks of daily study to go to the next level. Also, consider how much time you have to devote to studying.


We all have work and personal commitments, and your goals should be realistic and allow for these, so you don’t end up scrapping them altogether.

Relevant: Have you decided you want to improve your Academic English, but studying Business English would be more relevant for your long-term goals? Or do you want to boost your listening skills, when in fact your test results show that reading and writing are your weak areas? You can always ask your teacher for feedback on what they feel you can improve on.

Time-Bound: And finally, make sure to set milestones so that you have deadlines to work towards, for example, you could set milestones for every three months, or a shorter period if you have a more immediate deadline, as long as this is attainable. Naturally, it probably isn’t advisable to say ‘asap’! 

So, that’s all folks. Wishing all our loyal readers a happy and prosperous New Year and the best of luck in achieving all your goals for 2024!

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