The New Year is upon us and the most frequently made (and broken!) resolutions involve health and fitness. Whether you plan to shed some extra pounds, exercise more or ditch unhealthy habits this year, setting realistic and specific goals is the first step on your road to success.
Setting good goals means setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. Using the S.M.A.R.T. method can help you make sure you’re working toward goals that can succeed and not just leave you feeling discouraged and frustrated. Here are the five steps of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.
Setting a very general health goal is counterproductive—if your goal is to lose weight, you are much less likely to achieve it, or even stick with it at all, than if your goal is to lose 10 pounds by your next birthday, or before bathing suit season. In addition, saying things like “I want to eat healthier” or “I want to eliminate stress from my life” is far too general. Define specific activities that will lead you toward your goals, such as “I will eliminate added sugar from my diet” or “I will take a healthy cooking class.” Having a defined goal gives you something to work toward.
Find a way to measure your progress toward your goal. Whether you have a target weight you’re working toward, an amount of time you want to spend exercising or a deadline for achieving your goal, having a way to measure your progress will help you to be more successful. Record your goal and put it in a place where you will see it regularly, such as on the bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator or on your desk at work. Check in with yourself regularly to measure progress toward your goal—if your goal is to consume a certain number of calories per day, keep a journal of calorie intake so you can monitor your progress.
After setting a goal, plan how you will reach it. If it is a large goal, there may be many steps to complete and phases to go through before you reach your ultimate goal. It is ok to set smaller goals for yourself that you can use as milestones and help your goal become more achievable. Going in without a plan will not help you reach that goal—do some research so you know what you need to do and how to do it.
Don’t set impossible expectations for yourself. It may benefit you to set goals in smaller pieces—when you reach one goal, set another, and eventually you will make it to your long-term goal. Starting with small goals and working up to the larger ones may also help your motivation—the feelings of success you’ll experience as you achieve the smaller goals will give you motivation to push yourself further.
Give yourself a sense of urgency—“I will lose 10 pounds before my friend’s wedding,” rather than, “It would be nice to lose 10 pounds.” Setting a date or time frame in which to complete your goal may help you get in the right mindset to actually achieve the goal. Make sure you’re setting realistic timeframes, however, so you don’t just write the goal off as impossible.
Set goals to accomplish what you’ve been meaning to do for years—don’t hold yourself back.
Many studies have shown that goals that are either simple or extremely challenging often provide more motivation than goals with a moderate level of difficulty. Be wise, though, setting goals that are so challenging as to feel impossible, will decrease your motivation for achieving it. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself this year and become a healthier you. And whether you are setting health goals or any other kind of goals, using the S.M.A.R.T. method will increase your chances of reaching those goals.