It's that time of year again when everyone is talking about setting goals or making new resolutions. If you are like so many people who set goals in the New Year only to find them somehow impossible to follow through with, this guide is for you! So many times in my life I have tried changing a bunch of things at once, only to fail at everything.
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is a way to set yourself up for success because how you go about setting goals can make all the difference. When I was working as a health coach one of the most important things I would tell my clients is to set just one goal at a time and use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. Goals as a guide.
When you set one goal and focus all of your energy on it, you are much more likely to succeed. This guide is great for small goals and can also help you break down big goals into smaller, more manageable steps. You don't get to the mountain top in one leap, it takes many small steps to add up to big accomplishments. So what does S.M.A.R.T. stand for?
S is for Specific. Let's say you want to get more exercise on a regular basis. That's a great goal, but it's pretty vague. A more specific goal would be: I want to get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise 5 days a week. Even more specific: I want to run or do yoga at home for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, Monday through Friday. I will schedule this into my week's calendar to make sure I have the time. Now that's specific!
M stands for Measurable. A successful goal is one that can be easily measured and answers the questions: How much? How many? Using my specific goal above, I can measure both the frequency and the duration of my workouts. This is how I will know I am hitting my goal, or if I need to make some adjustments so that I can hit my goal.
A is for Attainable. Is your goal something that you can, with a little stretching, actually reach? You want to aim for something in between too easy and too challenging.
R stands for Realistic or Relevant. If you don't exercise at all, setting a goal of five workouts a week is really not realistic. Scale things back until you can realistically, with some stretching and commitment, reach your goal. Start with 1-2 workouts per week. Once you reach that level of fitness, try for 3-4 per week and so on until you hit your big goal. A relevant goal is one that matters to you that you are both willing and able to work towards achieving! Beware of setting goals based on "I should..." We can all list 100 things we 'should' be doing, things that usually have more to do with others than with our true desires. Make sure your goal is for you; think "I want, I need or I desire" as ways to state your goal.
T is for Timely or Time-Bound. With my exercise goal, I would want to set a date at which I will be regularly hitting my goal. Let's say I pick a deadline of February 1st, giving me a month to sort out all the details and get into this new workout routine. An end date for your goal gives you something to work towards. It gives urgency to your work and a clear deadline for completion. Then you can celebrate your success and set up a new goal!
Each goal you set and achieve will set you up for your next goal. Each one is a small step towards a bigger picture: a more fully realized version of who you really are. Think of how quickly each little change you make will add up into major positive changes over the course of a few months or a year.
One last thing, be sure to share your goal and your deadline with people who support you in making positive changes. Knowing your friends are rooting for you, and will be asking you how things are going, can be a huge motivator!