Take a minute and think about your most recent health goal. It could be that you want to lose five pounds for that vacation you have coming up. Maybe it’s that you really want to reach 10,000 steps every day. We all know that goals are great ways to set our minds and intentions on reaching our potential. But what most of us don’t know is that not all goals are created equal. How we set up our goals, whether they’re short-term or long-term, weighs heavily on our ability to actually achieve them. And of course, that’s the point of a goal right? To strive to achieve it?
By creating SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, we set ourselves up for the greatest likelihood for success.
When we say “specific,” you might be thinking “I DO set specific goals. I SPECIFICALLY want to fit into my jeans!” But that’s not what we mean. We are talking about specific, tactical details. HOW will you fit into your jeans? Will you get there by adding exercise to your daily routine? Starting a meal plan? Let’s look at getting active:
A general goal would be something like “I want to walk more.” That’s a great idea in theory, but it doesn’t hold you accountable to the details that will actually get you walking. Will you be walking alone or with family or friends? Which days do you want to walk? Where will you be walking? Why do you want to accomplish this goal?
Did you notice anything about that barrage of questions? Who? What? When? Where? Why? Right, that’s what we mean by specific. The general statement of “I want to walk more” doesn’t answer any of these questions.
On the other hand, saying “I will walk 10,000 steps every weekday by committing to a walk around the lake at lunch with my coworker Rachel, because I WANT TO FIT IN MY JEANS!” is much more specific and you are more likely to stick with it. There are requirements within that goal that are holding you accountable to reach it.
You can’t improve what you’re not measuring. This is a rule across nearly all things in life, and personal goals are no different. Being able to track your progress through established criteria is the marker of a good, solid SMART goal. When you’re able to measure your progress, you’re more likely to stay on track to ultimately reach your goals and stay motivated to reach higher still.
We at Livzo recommend using tracking tools to get you there! Check out our suite of tracking tools in the Health Diary, and reach out to your Livzo Coach if you need help getting started.
A measurable goal will be able to answer the questions: How much? and How will I know when it’s accomplished? Take the example of the 10,000 steps a day goal. This is a measurable goal (using an activity tracker) because it answers how much (10,000 steps) and how you’ll know when you’ve accomplished it.
Attainable goals are about how you CHOOSE the goal. They are goals that are important enough for you to fully commit to while also recognizing any potential roadblocks that are out of your control. Attainability assures you success in achieving your goal if you’re willing to put in the work. You’re willing and able to put in the work of walking 10,000 steps a day in order to fit into your jeans. You know that by walking around the lake during lunch with your co-worker Rachel, you’re setting yourself up for success in eventually being able to achieve the bigger goal of fitting into those jeans. But if you know you are usually out of the office during lunchtime, then this goal wouldn’t be attainable and you must rework it accordingly. Attainability is all about choosing a goal, sticking with it, and making sure your plan of attack is realistic given any external variables that could keep you from reaching it.
Relevant goals make sure that the smaller, day-to-day goals are leading you in the right direction to eventually reach your larger goals. Is your walking 10,000 steps a day goal relevant to fitting into your jeans? Yes, it seems like it is. However would walking 10,000 steps a day be relevant to a goal about getting a promotion at work? That might be a stretch. SMART goals are thoughtfully connected and integrated into your larger goal so that you can see results.
A goal should be placed within a time frame so that there is some sense of urgency in accomplishing it – when will you start working on it, and by when do you want to see results? In the case of fitting into those jeans, do you have some sort of looming event? A reunion perhaps? Have you given yourself enough time to accomplish this goal by walking 10,000 steps a day? Or do you just want to see results before summer? Either way, does that mean you should start walking tomorrow to accomplish it? Are you ready to get started?
Ok, so here’s the final (long-winded, as it were) goal that we’ve come up with after this lesson in SMART goals: “I will start walking 10,000 steps every weekday starting THIS MONDAY. To get there, I will walk around the lake at lunch with my coworker Rachel. I’m doing this now, because I WANT TO FIT IN MY JEANS by June, because I have a vacation coming and I want to bring them.”
The SMART goals model is a good starting point for creating effective goals that actually get you where you need to be. We’ll ask you again to think of a goal you’ve set (past or present) and whether you achieved it or feel confident that you will. And then consider everything we went through on this list once more. Is your current goal SMART? If not, what needs to be adjusted in order for it to pass the SMART goal test?