With the New Year fast approaching, we will likely feel the pressure of setting New Year’s Resolutions. While you certainly can do that, it may be a lost cause as most people will give up on them in 3 weeks. So, what should you do instead? Set realistic goals that fit your lifestyle.
Goals are meant to give you motivation and structure. They are meant to fit your lifestyle, not fit some ideal. Often a resolution is far too lofty, idealistic and doesn’t have an end date so we end up folding on it when the going gets tough. This doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means that your goal/resolution was not in alignment with your lifestyle and we can do better to set goals that actually get accomplished.
This year instead of setting a resolution you cannot keep, let’s talk about setting SMART goals and setting them regularly so that you not only keep the goals but you actually achieve them. Sound like a plan? Excellent, now let’s look at what SMART goals entail.
You have probably heard of SMART goals before. The problem is that we often get overwhelmed by making SMART goals and think they are too specific, so we set more lofty goals with no end date in hopes that something will change, that we will change. Let’s break it down so you can understand what a SMART goal is and show examples of what that might look like when it comes to your health and nutrition.
First things first, SMART stands for:
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Timely
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s break down the components of a true SMART goal.
This means we need to be as specific as possible. Include the who, what, where and/or why. It needs to be precise and clear so that if someone read it who did not know you, they would be able to know exactly what you were talking about. Do not say you want to run more, instead, say you want to run X miles for Y time to achieve Z outcome.
As they say in business, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” There must be some way to measure your goal, after all if it’s not measured, how will you know if you hit your goal or not? You should be able to answer the question how much?, how many? and/or how will I know when I’ve accomplished this goal?. Put a measure on it and if you are unsure what to measure, ask someone! If you want to lose weight, you must weigh in, if you want to run a certain distance or time you must either time it or track it.
Is there an action-oriented verb that will help you achieve your goal? Does it pass the common sense test? You must figure out if you have the attitude, resources, ability, skills and capacity to complete and pursue your goal. If you want to buy a new house you can’t just walk up to the door and tell the owner “hey I want your house”. You have to make sure it’s for sale and that you have the funds to buy it first. Say your goal out loud and see if it makes sense, say it a few times and then write it down. The more you think it through the more you will know if it makes sense for YOU or not.
If a goal is not realistic it’s not going to lead you to success. This is not a dream goal, this is a goal you hope to achieve in a short period of time so that you can be on the path to reach your dream goal(s). An unrealistic goal? Running a PR in your marathon a day after getting a cast off your leg. Instead set a goal to run X distance Y time after your cast is off in Z time.
If you don’t set a time on when you want to reach said goal then what is the urgency to reach that goal? If you just say “I want to lose weight” that is not specific enough. When do you want to lose weight? Tomorrow? Next week? Two years from now?Instead of leaving it open ended, pick a date within 4 to 6 weeks that way you have the urgency to reach it. Sure, you may need to lessen the extremity of the goal but then you will set a new goal once that one is reached, easy peasy.
SMART Goal Template
Not sure where to start? Try using this template to help you out:
I will [your goal here] by [how you will do the goal]. I will know I am making progress because [how you will measure the goal] for [time goes here].
SMART Goal Example
I will exercise for 30 minutes at least 4 days per week by signing up for a gym membership, making appointments on my phone and having an accountability partner. I will know I am making progress because I will track my workouts on my phone for 4 weeks.
Now that you know what a SMART goal is, it’s time to put pen to paper and set your goals for the next month. While it can be tempting to write goals for the whole year, it might be more beneficial to write monthly goals and setting a monthly check-in either with yourself or with a coach to check in on those goals and write new ones. The more consistent you can be with monitoring and evaluating your progress, the more successful you will be long-term. Know that your health and nutrition takes work and consistency. The goals are what keep you on track but you must show up daily for those goals in order to see results.