Here we are at week 2 of my goal setting series.
Last week I asked you to think about goals that you’ve set in the past, if they’ve worked or not, and discovering your “why'“ behind whatever it is that you’re looking to do.
In this week’s post I’m going to give you the bulk of information you need in order to set goals that you’ll be able to realistically attain. Your goals are the first step towards making desirable changes, so do it right!
One of the best ways to describe adequate goal setting is using the SMART method. This means our goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Any goal I set for myself or my clients has these characteristics. Let’s take a look at how to create these types of goals.
This is where your desirable change comes in; what EXACTLY do you want to do? Who is involved? Is it just you? Your family? You and other co-workers? What are you doing? What’s the action and what are you working towards? Where are you going to complete this action? At home? At work? When is this going to happen? Is this something you do daily? Is it done at a specific time each day? A certain number of days each week?
So, let’s think of an example. Someone’s goal is simply, “lose weight.” That’s way too broad and definitely not specific. Let’s take a step back and ask, what are the steps to take in order to lose weight? Well, you could exercise more, get more sleep, drink more water, or change your diet somehow. Let’s go with diet, even this needs to become more specific. We narrow this down to something like packing a lunch for work to avoid we purchasing unhealthy snacks from the vending machines or fast food.
How do you know if you’re making progress towards your goal if you can’t measure it? Let’s keep working with the previous example. We’re taking our lunch to work so we don’t eat from the vending machines or fast food restaurants, but how do we measure that? We should pick a certain number of days that we will take our lunch. We could choose 1 day a week, 3 days a week, or even every day that we work that week. You can see how now that we put a number with the goal we can determine a) if we achieved it or not overall and b) if we’re making progress based on our goal for the week and previous weeks or attempts at the same behavior.
Is this goal realistic for you? Is packing your lunch 5 days this week out of the question? Maybe. What about just 1 day? Can we manage to throw something together and be prepared to pack a lunch once for the whole week? Maybe we’re a little more confident but still don’t think we can start off with 5 days, maybe 3 days is doable. This is huge factor in success. If the goal you’re setting is above and beyond what’s feasible, it will never work. Be kind to yourself and ease your way into things, change will come.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with goals or changes to make. An example of this would be deciding that next week you’re overhauling your kitchen and completely changing your eating pattern. How likely is that to succeed versus taking your time and only changing one or two things a week that you feel you’re in control of? This process might take longer to create drastic changes, but I assure you they’re more likely to stick. We’re in this for the long game, not making changes for a few weeks or a month and ending up back where we started.
Make sure your goal applies to what you want to achieve. If you’re hoping to lose weight by exercising, and you decide to start a running program, but you hate running, that is not ideal. Again, we’ve got long term in mind and if running isn’t something you want to keep doing, we should look at other options.
Another thing to think about with goal relevance is your “why?” Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to eat healthier? Is it for health reasons? Do you want to feel more energized? Having a “why” behind your goals is incredibly important in order to motivate your progress.
Give yourself a timeline, but make sure it’s realistic and even flexible. If we go back to our first example, our goal is to pack our lunch daily for work. At the end of the week we would assess how we did. How many days this week did I manage to pack my lunch? Then also give yourself a longer timeframe for the time you’d like it to take you to master that goal. For example, by the end of the month, you’ve managed to take your lunch to work daily for the entire week.
Understand that life happens and things may not always go as planned. If by the end of that month you’re still only getting 3-4 days a week of lunches packed, that’s okay. First of all, you’re better off than where you started and if nothing else, you’re still giving an effort. Rather than giving up or, even worse, trying to add another new goal in too soon, give yourself another month or so to master packing your lunch. Once you’re comfortable with that, and only then, introduce the next thing you’d like to work on.
Here’s an example of a goal that follows the SMART principles:
I will pack my lunch for work 3 days a week for the month of September. This goal will help me avoid snacking on junk food, encourage healthy choices, and save me from spending money. I want to do this because I feel this is a step toward losing weight and improving my health, which is important so that I can live a long life to support my family.
Are your goals SMART goals?
I encourage you to incorporate this technique into whatever goals you set!
Need help with goal setting and pursuing healthiness? Contact me!