By Heather L. Dyson
I want to lose weight. I want to be stronger. I want to feel better. I want to have more energy.
At least one of these wishes likely drifts into your thoughts from time to time, feeling equally inspired and out of reach all at the same time. These are lofty and desirable ideas that often elude us because we don’t dig much deeper into them. We cling to this vague concept for a time and then let it pass us by once again. How do we harness the optimism and motivation hidden inside these goals to actually achieve them the way we want to? SMART goals are just the ticket to help break down these overarching concepts and get to the root of the change you want to see in your life.
“SMART goals” is a buzzworthy term you have likely heard before, and for good reason. This method of goal setting is highly effective because it helps you to really implement concrete goals that are within your reach. Following each step encourages critical thinking and realistic expectations associated with your goal, and allows you to break things down in a manageable way. By looking deeper into your big goal, you can begin to see the ways you can implement actionable change into your life one step at a time. Using the SMART goal strategy can help you turn a mere wish into a reality.
S - Specific
Every goal needs to be specific and concrete. Vague sentiments like “I want to look better” do not give you any ground to solidly stand on. What does looking better mean to you and in what ways can you actually begin to see the desired change toward that look? Instead of relying on these kinds of vague concepts, try to analyze the crux of your desire and break it down into smaller steps. “I want my biceps to be more toned” is much more specific than simply “looking better” and will give you the ability to modify your lifestyle based on this concrete idea.
M - Measurable
Without data, we cannot see where we are today, where we want to be tomorrow, and how much progress we are making along the way. Using broad terms in your goal can obscure the results because you don’t actually know what the end result looks like with cold, hard facts. If your big goal is to lose weight, how will you know when you have accomplished this? By using actual data, you can begin to recognize the strides you are making and can have an actual finish line. For a weight loss goal, you could use verbiage like “I want to lose 25 lbs.” or “I want to drop 4 pant sizes.” Here you can easily use data to identify progress and success.
A - Achievable
When setting goals, it is easy for us to get overzealous. We want to tackle each element of our health right now all at once, but this is often not realistic. It is important to be aware of the limitations or abilities you personally have in reaching your goal to make sure it is something you can actually do. If you have a bad knee but make your goal to run 10 miles a day, you may quickly discover that this is not maintainable long-term. There may also be external factors that can make your goal less achievable, such as time, money, and energy. If you are a working father of 3 and have a goal to cook organic meals every night, you may be hard-pressed to keep that up for long. Make sure your goals fit well within your current life and consider any obstacles so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
R - Relevant
Remember that big vague goal you kept thinking about? This is the time you need to bring that back into focus. It’s easy when we start breaking down our goals to get caught up in the pull of many different habits, but we have to keep our main vision in mind. If your overall goal is to have more energy but you set a small goal of eating more blueberries, how do these ideas relate? Even more important than the big goal, think about your values. Make sure whatever goal you set is not in contradiction with who you are and what you believe in as an individual.
T - Time-Bound
Every step in the SMART goal process is still missing one key piece of data: time. How long do you expect this goal will take? How much time do you want to give yourself to work on this? By adding the element of time into the equation, you can easily give yourself a check-in point to analyze your progress and reevaluate your goal if needed. “I want to lose 10 lbs. in 6 months” is much better than simply saying “I want to lose 10 lbs.” because you can now have a stopping point to see how well that goal is going. It is important to note that this does not have to be a “finish line,” so to speak. It is better to think of this date or point in time as a pause in your journey to check in with yourself and see how far you have come or how far you have to go.
By getting SMART with your goals, you can go beyond the superficial statements and really get to the heart of change. Following through and staying accountable to your SMART goal becomes much easier when you have concrete steps to do so. With each SMART goal comes an opportunity to establish a new small step toward your overall goal, and gives you the power to turn dreams into reality.
Our nutrition coaching and personal training programs will utilize SMART goal setting, so when the club opens, take advantage of a free consultation with a coach to learn more about how to get started on your health goals!
because Health matters
We want everyone to have the knowledge they need to be the healthiest they can be. Check our blog for fitness techniques, nutrition tips, and new research on how to stay healthy!