The New Year is upon us! Did you set any New Year’s resolutions? How about last year, did you set, and keep your New Year’s resolutions? We see it every year, the “resolutioners” in the gym, and at the health food stores excited about reaching their goals, “This is the year!” they say. Then a month or two later they are gone.
Why is it so hard to reach our goals? Are we not motivated, or talented enough? Would we be able to reach our goals if we just worked a little harder, maybe if we just wanted it a little more? Maybe we are not the problem, maybe it’s our goals.
We are going to talk about setting SMART goals, goals that we can actually reach. Here are some basic steps.
1: “S” is for Specific.
Who? What? Where? When? Why?
We often set goals that are very vague. “I want to lose some weight”
Our goals need to be more specific, we should be able to answer the “W” questions, “Who, what, when, where, why” Instead of saying “I’d like to lose some weight” our goal can be “I’m going to sign up for weight training classes at the local gym, and go three times a week to help build muscle and lose fat”
This goal helps us reach the ultimate goal of “losing some weight” but is specific enough that we have an action plan.
2. “M” is for measurable
How will I measure progress? How many? How much?
Another problem with vague goals is that we have no bar set to know if we have met the goal. In our example above “lose some weight” there is no way to know if we have met or fell short of the goal, and therefore will never reach it. In the goal of going to weight training classes three time a week it is very easy to measure if we went three times in a week.
Setting shorter term deadlines can be very helpful in keeping goals. Going to the gym three times per week is much easier to track than going to the gym 156 times in the year, even though they balance out to the same amount of gym sessions.
Remember, for a goal to be measured you will need numbers, days per week, pounds lost, dollars saved, etc.
3. “A” is for attainable
Can this really happen? Is it attainable with enough effort? What steps are involved?
Our goals should be realistic, setting a goal that is impossible to reach, or out of our control is setting us up for failure. Goals such as winning the lottery, or growing six inches, are goals that are (for the most part) out of our control and unattainable.
When we set goals for ourselves we also need to be aware of our current status. If you’ve never exercised before it’s unlikely that you will be able to run an Iron man race by the end of the current month, it is however possible to train up to such a goal.
Set a goal that is realistic, and that you are willing to put in the effort to reach.
4. “R” is for relevant
How and why is this goal important to you? Does the goal reflect your values?
What is it that you really want in life, and does this goal help you get there? If you want to be able to play with your grandkids, or walk up the stairs without being out a breath, then a fitness goal is in line with your ultimate goal.
When we set goals that don’t line up with our values, or we don’t have any emotional investment in, there is very little chance that we will have the motivation to reach them.
5. “T” is for timely
Can I set fixed deadlines? What are the deadlines?
We need to have a specific deadline for our goals. The original goal of going to the gym three times a week gives us the deadline of the end of the week. Having a short term deadline can help keep us from veering too far off course. For example if I miss one entire week, I now have the new week to re-set and get back on track, as opposed to missing a few months before I realize how far off track I am.
Setting a deadline is crucial for any goal; it helps keep us on track, and motivates us to push through when the going gets tough.
Specific: Who? What? Where? When? Why?
Measurable: How will I measure progress? How many? How much?
Attainable: Can this really happen? Attainable with enough effort? What steps are involved?
Relevant: How and why is this goal important to you? Does goal reflect your values?
Timely: Can I set fixed deadlines? What are the deadlines?