Goals are important. They’re what drive us every day, whether we realize it or not – sometimes they’re in the form of deadlines we have no choice but to meet, and other times they’re in our seemingly menial to-do lists we make simply for the pleasure of being able to cross stuff off and feel that twinge of accomplishment.
Just about everyone has realized health and wellness are completely goal oriented. Most of us find ourselves creating new year’s resolutions that say “lose 30 pounds” or “cut out sugar.” While those goals are incredibly noble, I think we’ve all realized at one point or another that maybe our goals get a little too ambitious and cause us to slip off the tracks. That’s why in the health promotion universe we like to use what we call “smart goals,” standing for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Here are some guidelines for how to set up your own smart goal(s).
To be specific, figure out the who’s, what’s, where’s, when’s, and why’s. Do you want to be working out more? How much more? Outside or at the gym? With a buddy or solo? etc. Anything you can specify, specify.
Making your goals measurable is key. This way you’re able to see and track your progress. For example, say you’re wanting to reduce stress/anxiety by working out. It’s a great goal to have, but measuring stress levels/emotions in general is a little tricky and subjective. Instead, measure what you can about the workout itself (such as how many times you work out a week, for how long, what you’re doing, etc) and keep track of your emotions/mental health on the side and see how they coincide.
By saying a goal is achievable, it means you’re taking into consideration what’s going to have to go into your goal. Do you have access to the materials you need to reach this goal? Do you have the funds to be able to pay for equipment or memberships? That sort of thing.
Make sure your goals are realistic. Don’t scare yourself away from your goal before you can start working on it. Telling yourself you’re going to run for 5 miles 3 days out of the week if you’re not normally a runner is probably going to do more harm than good. However, don’t sit in your comfort zone. A realistic goal is one that’s going to challenge you, but isn’t so far gone that you feel that you stand no chance of accomplishing it. If you’re just starting out, take baby steps. The more of your little goals you accomplish, the more confident you’ll feel and encouraged you’ll be to start taking on bigger tasks.
Lastly, goals should have a timeline. Make sure you give yourself an adequate amount of time to complete the goal – it should be long enough that you don’t scare yourself away from your ability to reach it, but it should also be short enough that you feel a sense of urgency to work towards it. For example, in my wellness coaching class that I took, we helped clients set both weekly and 3-month goals. The weekly goals gave them something to work on day-to-day, but the purpose was for them to work their way up to their big 3-month goals, a pretty good amount of time to take it all in pieces, but also have to hit the ground running. Just like the goal itself, just make sure that your timeline is realistic.