When it comes to making changes for our health, setting the right goals can be a challenge. Yes, we’ve probably all heard that we need to set “SMART” goals, but what does that even mean? We’re going to look at this concept, and explore how it can increase your chance of success when embarking on the journey towards a healthier you.
You want to be SMART when setting your goals, ensuring each one is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Each of these contain specific ingredients to significantly increase your chances of success. Let’s take a closer look at each one of these:
Specific: It’s all in the details! When you outline exactly what you’re aiming to accomplish in a concrete way, you’re more likely to follow it. Simply saying “I will eat less added sugar to lose 5 lbs.” is not the same as “I will lose 5 lbs. by having fruit instead of cake after all my meals.” Try to write it down and make it as detailed as possible, including the what, why, where, when, and how!
Measurable: Whenever you set yourself a new goal, it is very important that you are able to measure your progress. If you have decided to get more exercise by going for afternoon walks, commit to more than just a certain number of days per week. Set yourself a quantifiable task like walking a specific amount of time or doing a certain number of steps each of those days. This will give you that extra push you may need to get started.
Attainable: You should set yourself up for success as much as possible, so think about what you can commit to realistically, rather than ideally. For example, if you’ve spent much of the past year being inactive, don’t start training for a marathon! Maybe you can aim to walk two to three times a week for at least 30 minutes, and over time increase the number of days, minutes, and then even start running one day! Also, always identify where you will be carrying out your efforts, making sure the location is accessible, convenient, and affordable, all of which will make your goals more attainable.
Relevant: In addition to setting a specific, measurable, and attainable goal, it must also be appropriate for you and align with your values. For example, if you have never run before but enjoy dancing and need to start a consistent exercise regimen, it is a better idea to try a Zumba class or a dance workout video instead of attempting to start jogging. This doesn’t mean you can never try, it’s just more realistic to start with what you are most comfortable, and you can always add variety once you develop your preferences, ability, and strength.
Time-bound: Lastly, goals need to have an underlining timeframe. When you have a target date in mind, it helps to keep you motivated and more focused. For example, it’s better to say, “By Thanksgiving (when), I will lose 5 lbs. by having fruit for dessert at least four times a week instead of cake every day.”. If you’ve been able to consistently achieve this for a long period, don’t shy away from increasing your healthier habit over time, while decreasing the old behavior – you may see the weight drop off even before your target date!
Include each of these pieces of the SMART puzzle when setting your goals, and you’re off to a great start for you and your health!