While I am not someone who believes in New Year’s resolutions, I do think January is an excellent time to reassess life goals. This is especially true of health and weight-loss goals following the season of holiday overindulgence. The way in which you formulate those health goals, however, can make the difference between success and failure. Goals that are vague, unrealistic, or overly ambitious can lead to frustration, lack of motivation, and failure. On the other hand, goals that are realistic, measureable, and well thought out can help you remain focused and motivated, and ultimately lead to success.
An excellent way to make effective goals that set you up for success is to follow the SMART checklist. According to that list, SMART goals should be:
S – specific
M – measurable
A – achievable
R – realistic
T – timely
- There should be specific actions to take to reach your goal. For example, how many pounds do you want to lose?
- Your goal should be measureable so you know if you are on track.
- If you do not make your goal measureable, you won’t know when you have reached it.
- Examples of how to measure include pounds lost, inches lost, how clothing fits, cholesterol levels and the ability to walk a particular distance.
- Is your goal achievable and realistic?
- Do not set yourself up for failure with a goal that is too ambitious.
- An achievable goal is one that you have enough time and resources to achieve.
- Your goal should be practical given your resources and time.
- You should have a specific time frame in which to achieve your goal.
- Setting a time limit creates a fixed timetable to keep you on track.
- If your time period is over 6 months, set an interim goal with a 2-3 month timeline.
1. Write your Goals Down
Write your goals down and post them in places where you will see them throughout the day (mirror, fridge door, work desk).
2. Share your Goals with Others
Sharing your goals with others will help keep you accountable to someone other than yourself. It will also create a support group to cheer you on as you try to reach your goals.
3. Anticipate Obstacles and Setbacks
Try to anticipate obstacles that might get in the way of you achieving your goal, and prepare solutions for them.
Example: I eat unhealthy snacks between meals.
Solution: Buy and prepare healthy snacks to have on hand.
4. Long and Short Term Goals
If your overall goal is big or only achievable over a long period of time, you might benefit from breaking it up into smaller, short-term goals. By making your goals small and attainable, you can see victories along the way. This will help you maintain excitement and motivation towards your overall goal.
Example: I will lose 39 pounds in 6 months
Solution: Break it down into monthly goals. For the first three months, “I will lose 8 pounds a month”. For the last three months, “I will lose 5 pounds a month”.
5. Adjust your goals as needed
As you work towards your goals, make sure you reassess and adjust them if necessary. If you find your goal is overwhelming, make it more achievable. If you find your goal is too easy to reach, set yourself some bigger challenges. Be willing to make changes as needed to keep yourself motivated and on track.
6. Be kind to yourself
Remember that setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Try not to have an “all or nothing” attitude. Just because you slip up, it does not mean that you should give up. Just pick yourself up and get back to it. Making sustainable lifestyle changes takes time and lots of mistakes. Strive for progress, not perfection.
EXAMPLES OF SMART GOALS
To get you started, here are some examples of how to turn a vague goal into a SMART goal.
- I want to lose weight
- I will lose 5 pounds by February 29, or
- I will lose 7% of my body weight in 3 months, or
- I will drink water instead of soda 5 days every week, or
- I will make my lunch instead of eating out 4 days this week
- I want to eat better
- I will eat no more than 1,800 calories each day, or
- I will eat 2 servings of vegetables five days each week, or
- I will eat potato chips on no more than 2 days each week
- I want to exercise more
- I will walk enough to burn at least 1,250 calories through exercise each week, or
- I will walk for 30 minutes every day, or
- I will walk 5 days every week for 30 minutes each time, or
- I will ride my bike for 30 minutes 3 times each week
- I want to get fit
- I will run 5 km by March 31, or
- I will lift 120 pounds by June 30, or
- I will run a 10-minute mile and do 30 pushups by April 1
- I want to get healthy
- I will stop smoking by March 30, or
- I will eat 2 servings of vegetables at least 4 days every week, or
- I will drink water instead of soda 5 days every week
- I want to run faster
- I will run 10k in 45 minutes by March 30