Happy New Year, 2018! If you’re like me, you’ve set some New Year’s Resolutions. If you’re also like me, you have a history of abandoning those resolutions come February…yikes. Well, not this year!
Whether you’re just starting the year off with a new goal, recycling last year’s goals, or have a goal at any point in your entire life, regardless of what the calendar says, there are just certain things that make some goals better than others. You can state your goals in a way that makes you more likely to actually reach them.
Imagine: You set a New Year’s Resolution…and then you reach that goal. Woohoo! It’s rare, but not for the reasons you might think. It’s not that the goals you’re setting are too high, or that you’re lazy, or a failure. It’s all in the way you’re stating your goals and the actionable steps you take to reach them. Newsflash: if you don’t take actionable steps, or you’re not clear on exactly what you want to achieve…you won’t reach your goals!
Let’s take a look at this goal:
“I want to exercise more this year.”
or this one:
“I am going to eat healthier.”
These are great things to strive for! But, how are you going to get there? If you eat a banana today, but you had pizza yesterday…have you achieved your goal? How do you know when you’ve achieved it? There’s something missing from these goals…
What the heck am I talking about? Smart goals. That is, S.M.A.R.T. goals. It’s an acronym!
What are SMART goals?
A smart goal is one that doesn’t get abandoned shortly after it’s made. A smart goal provides you with information. A smart goal is clear. A smart goal is:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Achievable
R – Relevant
T – Time-Sensitive
By using the acronym SMART, you will be able to turn your lazy goal of “exercising more” into something that is less likely to be abandoned within the next few weeks. You’ll be able to create and execute a plan. And you’ll be more likely to actually reach your goal, because you’ll have a clear path of how to get there.
It only takes a few minutes to transform your goal into a SMART goal. Let’s walk through the process, one letter at a time.
SMART goals are specific. They’re not vague. They don’t make you ask any questions about what the goal really is. In fact, they answer these questions! Think about your five basic “W” questions: Who, What, Where, When, Why, and the bonus non-W question, How.
If you exercise for five minutes, did you “exercise more?” What are we comparing it to? Did you really reach your goal?
SMART goals are measurable. They have values assigned to them that you can measure. Time, weight, calories, sets, reps. Whatever it is you’re measuring, you have a number that you can record. You can see progress if you go from lifting 5 pounds, to 10, to 25. You can count calories, if that’s your jam. You can weigh yourself periodically and record your weight. You can train for a marathon by seeing how long it takes you to run a mile now, in two weeks, and in two months. You don’t have to track every single thing you do, but to have a SMART goal, you should have a number to work toward.
Related Reading: How to Calculate Your Calorie Needs
Or “attainable”, if you like that word better. Your goals shouldn’t be so outlandish or unrealistic that to actually reach them would require superhuman abilities. You can’t expect yourself to be new to lifting weights but be squatting your body weight by next week. You can’t expect yourself to lose 20 pounds in two weeks. SMART goals are realistic and achievable. They’re not outlandish. They make sense for the amount of time you have, your current skill level (or other starting point), and your ability to put effort into the goal.
The goal that you set must be relevant to you. It must be something that you actually care about. Friends and family can’t set a goal for you and expect you to reach it if it’s something that you have no personal interest in. You should be benefiting from this goal in some way. You should be passionate about your journey and the outcome, and how your life will be better once you’ve achieved your goal. Choose a goal that is important to you, and maybe even important or relevant to a bigger goal you have.
Related Reading: 10 Awesome Benefits of Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Just as your goal should be achievable within certain parameters, you must specify a time to allow yourself to reach the goal. You can’t expect to be a professional basketball player in a few short weeks, but you can improve your shot in a few weeks. Plus, having an end-date in mind forces you to get a move on within that time, or else your end-date will come and go and you’ll think you’ve failed.
Changing your goal into a SMART goal
“Exercise more” is a loose goal. Which exercises are you going to do? How often? Where will you do them? When will you have time for them? It just leads to more questions. But to take a few minutes to answer these questions. Let’s go through the steps to make “I want to exercise more” a SMART goal.
Specific. Think about which exercises you enjoy, when you would have time to do them, and where you’d like to do them. Let’s say we enjoy running. We can wake up and train before work, and we have access to a treadmill at the health club we joined specifically for this purpose. Great!
Measurable. Do you want to run for a certain length of time each morning? How many times per week? Do you want to cut your mile time down? Let’s say we want to run three times per week, for 30 minutes. Since we are brand new to running, we want to bring our mile time from 14 minutes to 10 minutes.
Achievable. It’s not unreasonable to go from 14 minutes to 10 minutes. We aren’t expecting ourselves to do a 6-minute mile. We have an extra 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, so three days a week is perfect. We don’t have broken legs, which is great, because we are trying to run. We don’t expect ourselves to be able to reach our goal time after a few training sessions. Everything in our goal is realistic and achievable.
Relevant. We’ve really let ourselves go since we ran track in high school. Running used to be a passion, but student life or office life or whatever life has made you more sedentary. Plus, we’ve enjoyed quiiite a bit of fast food lately, and put on a few pounds. In this situation, I’d really want to get back to my old self, wouldn’t you? I want to be the best me I can be. It’s important to me that I don’t lose track of my health. It’s a passion of mine to take control of my health, and no one else is forcing me to do this.
Time-Sensitive. A few of our friends signed up for a 5k this summer. It’s on July 23rd. It’s January 3rd now, which means I’ve got 7 whole months to reach this goal. I know I can get from 14 minutes to 10 minutes much sooner than that, so I’m going to bump up my goal time to a more realistic date without pushing myself too hard. I will reach my goal by April 1st.
All that reflecting we just did just answered a ton of questions and made our goal so much more informative! It only took a few minutes to think about our passions, evaluate our current skill level, find time to take actionable steps to reach the goal, and look! Now we have a ton of information that we can use to actually reach our goal of “exercising more”.
So, let’s rephrase it.
Our new SMART goal: By April 1st, 2018, I will be able to run a mile in under 10 minutes. I will achieve this by running three times per week for 30 minutes each session.
We didn’t have to write every single thing down, but it’s important to write down the measurable aspects of your goal. These are what you’re really working toward, and the actionable steps you need to take to get there. We know it’s achievable and relevant because we’ve brainstormed that and worked it into the measurable numbers that we came up with. If you DO want to write everything down, that’s great! Walk through the steps like we just did, write down your thoughts, and construct a solid sentence at the end. Keep it all together, but make sure that you…
Write Your SMART Goals Down!!!
It’s been tested and proven that when you write your SMART goals down on paper, you’re more likely to achieve them. Keep it somewhere you can see every day. Remind yourself of what you’re working toward. A sticky note on the bathroom mirror or a piece of paper stuck to the fridge can be a constant reminder of what you’re working toward and each little step you need to take to get there.
Take Actionable Steps
Okay, I’ve written my SMART goal….now what?
Now you implement it. Break it down into smaller steps that you can do to reach your bigger goal. Make even tinier SMART goals if you’re really motivated! For our example, maybe we can work on getting from a 14-minute mile to a 13-minute mile in one month. We’re working toward the bigger goal.
We have measurable information in our SMART goal. Run three times per week for 30 minutes. An actionable step would be to schedule out the time to make those sessions happen. Set your alarm half an hour earlier. Have your exercise clothes at the ready. Set yourself up for success.
Think to yourself: What are the smaller steps I need to take in order to achieve this goal? Break it down by time. What can you do this month, this week, TODAY, to work toward your SMART goal?
Related Reading: How to Start Meal Planning
Some other examples….
I used exercise as an example for this post because I’ve had several people reach out to me and let me know that they’re struggling with getting enough exercise. But, that might not be everyone’s goal! Here are some examples of goals than relate to your overall health. Remember, cater these to your needs, your current skill level or starting point, and your availability to work on these goals.
“By June, 2018, I will have lost 30 pounds of body weight. I will achieve this by planning my weekly meals, using portion control, cooking at home, and following a weightlifting routine three times per week.”
You can set goals for weightlifting, smaller weight loss goals within this goal, and meal planning goals!
“By the end of this week, I will have eaten 4 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. I will succeed by planning my meals ahead of time and having convenient fruits and veggies available for snacking.”
An actionable step here would be to make a shopping list that includes items like apples and baby carrots, then actually buying them!
“By the end of the year, I will have reduced my prescription medication intake from 5 daily pills to 1. I will overcome this obstacle by monitoring my weight, cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood sugar levels once per month.”
I smell more SMART goals coming! What do you want your bloodwork to read? Do you want your HDL to go from 30 to 60? And HOW will you achieve those goals?
“By next month, I will have spent ten total hours relaxing to reduce my stress. I will achieve this goal by meditating every day and increasing my meditation time by five minutes every day.”
What are some actionable steps you can take to do this? Schedule in your meditation time each day, find a meditation app you enjoy, and creating a meditation space in your home!
Now it’s your turn!
What is a current goal you have? How can you turn it into a SMART goal? Write your SMART goals down and keep them somewhere where you can see them. Start right now by leaving me a comment with your new SMART goal!
Good luck! You don’t need it, since you know how to set great goals and take actionable steps. 😉