I spent part of yesterday working on a Scrabble-themed bulletin board that encourages the students at our college to set SMART goals and after putting the whole thing together I realized the same technique and method of thinking can be applied to healthy living, weight loss, exercise, etc., as well. So, hello blog post.
Having goals are great. Obviously. Like I'm going to stand here and tell you don't have goals.
But merely having a goal isn't always enough to follow it through to completion. You also need a plan of action to keep on track and that's where the SMART technique comes in. (This is not my invention, by the way. I'm not nearly that clever. It is, instead, a management criteria most often used for developing projects or employee evaluations and was apparently first coined in the early 1980s. There's your #themoreyouknow moment for today.)
S is for SPECIFIC
I recently gave a presentation discussing brand development where I said You can't effectively market something if you don't actually understand what it is that you're trying to market. Setting goals and objectives works the same way. You can't effectively achieve a goal if you don't understand the full scope of that goal. So when setting your goals, be specific and think in the terms of the W questions: What do you want to achieve? Why do you want to achieve it? Who can help you? When would you like to achieve it by?
Any goal can be broken down in this manner: You want to 10 lbs because it will make you feel better about yourself or give you more energy or be more active, etc. You hope to lose this weight by the end of the year and the people who can help are supportive friends or family or the team at Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or your friends on SparkPeople/MyFitnessPal.
M is for MEASURABLE
How will you know when you've achieved your goal? What is the ruler of measuring progress and success? With weight loss it's pretty easy since you have the scale, but what about other goals? Like, I would like to get stronger, especially in my upper arms. But just saying "I would like to get stronger" doesn't fit the Specific criteria mentioned above and it's so vague it would be pretty hard to measure so I could say something like I want to be able to do 10 swings with a 20 lb Kettlebell. That's a goal that can be measured as I progress in repetition or weight of the Kettlebell.
A is for ATTAINABLE
This is a tricky one because you want to challenge yourself and aim high, but you also don't want to aim too high because when it becomes apparent your goal is way outside of your reach it may leave you frustrated and wanting to just screw the whole thing. So be realistic. Like, I have a 10K coming up in a few weeks and while I would like to finish in an hour I know that's not going to happen. That would be an unrealistic goal and I'd probably risk injury in an attempt to meet it. But a realistic goal is saying I want to beat my previous 10K by, oh, five minutes. Having an attainable goal means not settling for below your abilities but also not setting yourself up for automatic failure.
R is for REWARDING
Technically speaking, in the original SMART criteria R was for Relevant but the criteria is pretty flexible and I like rewarding instead because I feel it helps keep me motivated when things are a bit of a struggle. Many of the SMART attributes cross-over with each other and this kind of goes along with the Why do you want to achieve this goal bit from being Specific. Don't just set a goal because it sounds good, set a goal that has personal meaning. Like, getting healthy will help you be around longer for your kids or you want to complete a half-marathon just for the sense of pride it will bring or you want to lose weight to fit into a fabulous wedding dress. Then, when things get rough (and they will) or you feel yourself wanting to give up (and you will), go back and remember that initial reward you are striving for.
T is for TIME
This goes a bit with the Specific part and When you would like to reach your goal because you need to have some kind of time frame of completion otherwise you can't really measure your progress. So PR-ing at your upcoming race in a month or 10 lbs by the end of the year or whatever. But also think outside the box a little and think about what you can do right now to help you achieve your future goal. Maybe your time frame is still several months away but are you making good choices at this moment that will inch you closer to that goal?
In other words, do something today that your future self will thank you for.
Love from the ashes,