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Goal Setting the SMART way

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One of the number one resolutions people make each year is to get healthy and lose weight. Yet more often than not, people fail to accomplish this task successfully and it gets put on the list for next year.  Why is it that something so important to us is so hard to achieve?  While there are many answers to this question, I find that failure to make goal setting a serious task and priority is a huge culprit in this struggle.

Goal setting should not be a one time, lofty statement like, “I want to get healthy and lose 20lbs.”  It needs to be a repetitive ritual that establishes the “why” behind your actions.  You need strong reasons to motivate success.  So first, take the time to establish the reasons for this journey.  Perhaps your “why” is being able to actively play with your future children or grandchildren, or being able to walk up stairs with ease, or feeling strong when you go about your daily activities.  Maybe your reasons why include gaining self-confidence and feeling good about how your clothes fit you.  Whatever your “whys” are, I encourage you to write them down and look at them every day. Success psychologists say that 95% – 97% of the people in the world do NOT have written goals and fail, while 3-5% have written goals and succeed.  This is because in order to achieve a specific goal we must establish rituals and habits that support this goal.  What you repeat over and over again is programmed into the subconscious mind and begins to take root. On a practical level, this means RE-writing your goals every day and thinking about them in positive terms and in mental pictures until the habit is formed and turned over to “auto-pilot.”

Now let’s get a little more specific.  The SMART acronym is a way of turning your goals into reality. Here is what it stands for:

SPECIFIC: The goals must specifically state what is to be accomplished. They must be easily understood and should not be ambiguous or subject to interpretation. For example, rather than stating you would like to improve your fitness level, set a specific goal to be power walk a mile in 15 minutes or do 15 full-form pushups without stopping.

MEASURABLE: The goals must be measureable so that there is no doubt about whether you achieved them. Measurable goals also allow you to evaluate your progress. Goals can be measured objectively or subjectively (i.e., how you feel and look), or both. For example, you could measure your percent body fat and body weight, but also monitor how your pants fit.

ATTAINABLE: The goals must be attainable—not too difficult or too easy. Easy goals do not motivate, and overly difficult ones may frustrate you and lead to a perception of failure.

RELEVANT: The goals must be relevant or pertinent to your particular interests, needs and abilities. For example, when preparing for a 5K walk, running quarter-mile sprints would not be the best approach.  Find what you love and what suits you.

TIME-BOUND: The goals must be time-bound by specific deadlines for completion. Timelines can be both short-term and long-term and should help you stay focused.  By limiting the time you have to accomplish a goal you have a fixed timetable to work with and the sense of urgency that will spur you to keep on track.

Some helpful tips:

1.)   Identify a support system. Find individuals of significance in your life that will support your desire to change and perhaps even join you.

2.)   Select some rewards for achieving major steps in your program. Recognize your achievements with treats such as a purchase, attending a function or even taking a trip. Such rewards will help you stay motivated during the beginning of your program.

3.)   Visibly place prompts and cues that constantly remind you of the decision you made to change, and remove any stimuli that may trigger undesirable behaviors. For example, placing visible notes or keeping a workout bag accessible will prompt good behavior, while removing ice cream from the freezer may remove a negative stimulus.

Zig Ziglar once said that, “A goal casually set and lightly taken will be freely abandoned at the first obstacle.”  You may want to re-read that one!  It is not easy to make a change, but having a strong set of reasons why you are making the change and a sense of destination of where you want to be will help you succeed in your journey.


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