Many people see the start of a new year as a chance to improve relationships, better their health, and break bad habits. The problem with these resolutions is that many of them don’t last. A new beginning is a motivator for many, but how do you keep this enthusiasm throughout the entire year?
Setting SMART goals is the first step towards success. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive objectives give you the ability to track your progress in a more tangible way. For example: a goal such as –
“In 2014, I am going to lose weight.”
is very different than
“By June 1, 2014 I will lose 1 pound per week by doing cardiovascular and resistance exercises at least 5 times per week at my local YMCA until I reach my goal weight of ____pounds so my Body Mass Index falls in the normal weight category.”
So how do you make a goal SMART?
“S” in SMART stands for specific. This applies to the goal as a whole while the other letters are more precise and apply to certain aspects of the goal. The first thing to ask when setting this type of goal is what, specifically, do you want to accomplish? What is the purpose or benefit of achieving this goal? Who needs to be involved in reaching this goal? Where will this goal be reached? How will you conquer this goal? This part of the goal should be very clear and specific. Going back to our example goal, let’s break it down:
What: “lose 1 pound per week”
Who: “I” (if you were working with a friend, significant other, dietitian, or a personal trainer to reach this goal, then they would also go in this section!)
Where: “my local YMCA”
When: “by June 1, 2014”
Why: “so my Body Mass Index falls in the normal weight category”
How: “by doing cardiovascular and resistance exercises at least 5 times per week”
“M” is for measurable. This allows the goal to be tracked in a precise manner. Goal-setting that does not have a measurable aspect makes it difficult to know when your goal is reached and the progress you are making towards achieving your goal. Making a goal measurable can be done by adding dates, time constraints (ex. 2 hours), and other quantifiable information.
“A” represents the achievable aspect of your goal. Your goal should be something that requires work, however, not something that is extreme. Outlandish goals often set you up for failure which defeats the purpose of setting goals. If you have experienced failure with goal setting in the past, try making more realistic goals. Instead of trying to cook healthy dinners seven nights a week, try five. This little bit of leeway may make the difference in you reaching your goals – or reaching your breaking point.
“R” is the realistic component of your goal. Similar to achievable, goals should be set within your means. If you want to exercise at a gym in the next year but do not have a gym membership, or the means to obtain one, this goal is not realistic. This factor of your goal should also be relevant to your desired end result. Doing this will ensure that you are completing worthwhile tasks to work towards your goal.
“T” is the time sensitive component of goal setting. Whether it is a long or a short term goal there should be a time constraint on it. This gives you a sort of “deadline” to meet and achieve your goal. Without this factor, focus is often lost and your goal becomes overwhelmed by everyday tasks. Once again, this should be a realistic time frame. Research your goals, and ask others how long it took them to achieve similar goals.
Good luck with your resolutions, and have a safe, happy, and healthy 2014!