Starting a new year is an ideal time to set goals to improve one’s health. Many people make the same goals each year – “I want to eat better.” “I want to lose weight.” “I want to exercise more.” The unfortunate part about these goals is that they quite vague and are hard to measure success. Ok, so what about these goals? – “I want to work out seven days a week for three hours each day.” “I will only eat 500 calories a day to lose my excess 50 pounds.” Yes, these goals are more specific, but are they realistic? Let’s take a look at a simple way you can create S.M.A.R.T. health goals to start 2012 on the right foot.
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-phased. For the goal to be specific, it needs to include the “who” (person doing the activity) and the “what,” (action/activity). Choose only one action verb per goal, such as walk, eat or choose. Avoid verbs with vague meanings, such as know or understand, as they make the outcomes difficult to measure. A measurable goal describes how much change is expected. For example, you may want to eat three vegetables each day or walk three miles four days a week. An achievable and realistic goal can be reasonably accomplished within a given amount of time and with available resources. Going back to the exercise goal given earlier, if the person that set this goal only has an hour available to exercise four days a week, does it seem that he will be able to achieve his goal of working out each day for three hours? No, not really. You need to look at what resources (time, money, programs) are available to you and determine what you can reasonably accomplish. The final component of a S.M.A.R.T. goal is that it needs to be time-phased. In other words, give yourself a deadline; remember to be realistic, as to when you want to accomplish your goal. Do you want to accomplish it in two weeks, two months or two years? Choose an amount of time that will allow enough time for you to achieve your goal. Using all these pieces, here is an example of a S.M.A.R.T. nutrition goal – By the end of March (time), I (who) will eat three different types of fruit (what) a day at least five days out of the week.
In addition to the S.M.A.R.T. method, keep these practical tips in mind to ensure success with setting and attaining.
Start small. If you want to “start eating more fruit;” then make a short term goal to eat one piece a day for a week and then work up to two pieces a fruit per day for a week.
Repeat your goal to help make it stick. You can choose to say the goal aloud or write it down in a journal or on a Post It. By doing so, you are retraining your brain to help meet your goal.
Roadblocks do not mean failure. Set backs are part of the learning process so be patient with yourself. It takes time to change behaviors.
Knowledge is power. You are now armed with an effective game plan to go forward and set specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-phased health goals; ones that will not fizzle out by the end of January.