Setting SMART Goals for the New Year
As we come to the end of the year, it’s time to reflect upon the year that has been, all our accomplishments and all our challenges that we want to improve upon. What goals did you set and reach, and which ones fell a little short? More importantly, why did those goals fall short? Was it due to poor planning or were they simply unrealistic? Whatever the reason, it’s not that the goal wasn’t important to you but maybe you just needed some help understanding how to accomplish it. This is where I am here to help. There is a strategy to set goals and attain them. It’s a two-step process that is simple but will require some introspective and courage. Simply put, we want to use the acronym SMART when setting our goals and then share them with someone so that we are held accountable. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely. So, let’s look at each a little bit more in depth:
Maybe you are thinking that you want to get in better shape this coming year. What does this mean? Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to get stronger? Do you want to be able to do more of the things you want to do when you want to do them? Defining your goal beyond the general is extremely important because getting in better shape can mean so many different things so by making it more specific it is easier to know if you are reaching your goal. This leads us to our next aspect of the SMART goal, is it measurable?
So, you want to lose weight, how much weight? Maybe you want to get stronger, how much do you want to be able to lift? Maybe you want to be able to perform a certain task, like run a 5K, how fast do you want to complete it? By having your goals measurable, you can now set long term and short-term goals. The long-term goal is the endgame, while the short-term goals are the progress reports to get you there. You want to set small, measurable goals that help you judge your progress as you work towards your long-term goal. What these short-term goals also do is to make the larger, long-term goal seem more attainable by breaking it up.
This is simply to lay out your action plan to achieve your goal. So, if your goal is to lose weight, what steps are you going to take to achieve it? Are you going to change your nutrition? Are you going to exercise 3-5 days a week? By laying out your action plan, you will be more successful by giving you more structure to your day. You won’t be mindlessly eating or haphazardly exercising. Similarly, if your goal is to run a 5k, you will lay out the steps you are going to take to get there. Steps such as how far or long you are going to run each day, if you are going to run/walk, what your intervals are, etc.
You want to make sure that your goals are realistic and safe. For example, you don’t want to have a goal of losing 50 pounds, when realistically and healthfully, 25 pounds may be better due to your body composition. All too often, we set goals based on a feeling we got or how we looked when we were younger. The reality is that as we age, our bodies change, our abilities may change, and we want to adjust our expectations based on who we are now, not who we were 20+ years ago.
This is one of the most important aspects of setting SMART goals. When do you want to achieve your goal by. This helps us determine if the goal is realistic. This also helps us set up and hold true to our action plan. If we don’t set a date to accomplish our goal by, then it is always there, and we aren’t really working towards anything. I can always say that I want to lose weight and in the back of my mind, I can always work towards it, so it doesn’t matter if I get started today, or if I stick to my plan. Having our goals be timely helps hold us more accountable to ourselves.
The second part that I mentioned was to share your goal with someone else. This is where the courage comes in. If we share our goal with someone else, that means that we aren’t the only ones holding ourselves accountable for reaching the goal. It’s easy to let things slip or not workout that day because ultimately, no one is going to ask if we did. By sharing your goal, you are letting someone else in on your plan. Just by knowing that someone else may ask how you are doing on achieving your goals, often helps us stay accountable to ourselves because we don’t want to let them or ourselves down by saying that you haven’t been working as hard as you could on achieving it.
I strongly recommend whatever your goal is in the New Year, to meet with a qualified individual in that field to help set up your SMART goals, both short and long. Then will have more insight as to what is realistic, how long it may take, what steps will be most beneficial, and different ideas for making them specific and measurable. In the end, they will also help hold you accountable, making you much more successful and happier in the year to come!