Before embarking on a journey to a healthier lifestyle, you must first sit down and spend some time setting your goals. This process is more than just stating that you want to lose 5 lbs. It’s a process that defines goals, sets a timetable for accomplishing them, and ensures that you set yourself up for success instead of failure.
Goal setting is something I do on a daily basis. If you make small goals every day that you can achieve, then you will start achieving your bigger goals sooner than later.
It’s not required that you do this every day. However, it’s nice to have a goal that says something like, “today I’ll skip the soda” but the best thing to do is review your list of goals that you’re trying to achieve each day.
Goals provide direction for something that we want to accomplish. They shape our behavior, our attitude and our performance.
However, you must clearly define your goals so that you can be effective in working towards accomplishing them. For many years now, psychologists and elite fitness entities like the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) have used the acronym SMART when defining goals. This acronym breaks down as follows:
- Time based
Each letter of the acronym defines major skills or behaviors needed to accomplish your goals. Click Here To Download the Slim Down Smart SMART Goals Worksheet!
Now here is how S.M.A.R.T goals break down.
When setting goals, the first place to start is by making them as specific as possible. This involves the variables of: who, what, when, where, why and how. Specific goals make it easier for you to accomplish them because you can better construct a plan of action for accomplishing them.
For example, if your goal is to lose weight, you have to take this a step further and make it more specific. A specific goal would be “I will eliminate heavily processed carbs from my diet to burn fat.”
Vagueness can destroy your motivation and prevent you from creating a solid plan. Clearly defining your goals will help you take the right first step towards a better you.
Measurable goals help to identify how long it will take to accomplish your goals. It’s the criteria for knowing if or when you reach your goal. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” you would say “I want to lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks.”
Measurable goals help you to track your progress as you work hard toward accomplishing your goals. Progress is also a powerful motivator that can keep you encouraged, excited, and committed toward achieving your goals.
Attainable (Acceptable) goals really examine if your specific measurable goals are actually attainable. They put the action into the plan. For example, when trying to lose weight, you wouldn’t just say “I’m going to eat better to lose weight.” Instead, you would say something like “I’m going to stop eating out at restaurants and cook healthier higher quality food for myself.” That is something that is realistically attainable for most people.
What’s unattainable, especially for beginners, is a goal like “I will run 20 miles per week, swim 3 hours per week and weight lift 4 days per week.”
You may laugh at the extremeness of that example, but there are many people who set themselves up for failure by setting goals like that.
Realistic (Relevant) goals define how practical your goals are. Let’s go back to the example of “I’m going to stop eating out at restaurants and cook healthier higher quality food for myself.” Let’s say that you have a very demanding job that causes you to put in 50 hour work weeks.
This means, you have a very limited schedule. And if you are a parent or grandparent, you have even less time after work because you have kids to cook, clean, and do school work for, along with many other tasks.
You have to define your goal even further. It might not be realistic to cook perfect meals every day. Instead, you might need to say “I will cook a healthy fat burning dinner 3 days a week and cook quick healthy dinners on the other nights.”
This variation of your goal will help you to plan your eating routine and it won’t limit you to just cooking big meals. You have options that will make your goal more realistic for your busy life.
Just because I used cooking big meals as an example doesn’t mean you have to cook extravagant meals either. Quick and healthy meals may be the better option for you all around if you don’t like to cook.
Time anchored goals set the time frame for when you want to accomplish your goals by. However, there’s a fine balance needed for setting your time frames. A period too short will cost you long term success.
A period too long, and you may lose focus or motivation. One way to prevent yourself from having goals too long or too short is by creating both short-term and long-term goals.
Let’s go back to the losing weight goal. We had stated that we wanted to lose 10 pounds within 8 weeks.
We can actually break this down into short-term and long-term goals. Let’s say that you really want to lose 30 pounds overall. A realistic goal for losing 30 pounds would be within 4 months or 16 weeks.
Your long term goal would be to lose 30 pounds in 16 weeks, while your short term goal would be to lose 4 pounds within 5 weeks. Both of these goals would help to keep you on track so you can measure your success along the way.
Your vision is the anchor of your SMART goals. You must build a vision around living a healthy lifestyle. Your goals will come and go but your vision will always remain the same. Once you’ve lost the 30 lbs. your goal has diminished and then what? Go back to your old ways? That’s why you need to create a vision for yourself.
Losing weight is a part of your ultimate vision. An example vision may be, “I want to live a long fulfilling life feeling full of energy and free of medical problems, while maintaining my ideal weight of 123 lbs.”
Set Your Goals
The more time you take to properly set your goals, the better chance you have at accomplishing them. The goal setting process is an important aspect to creating a healthier lifestyle. It clearly sets your direction, path, or plan of action to start the journey to creating a healthier you.
Setting small goals may be a little overwhelming at the start but if you take your time and think about each objective then you’ll have great success!