SMART Goal Setting

It’s that time of year again. A fresh start in 2021. Did you have a resolution? How’s it going so far? 

Change and self-improvement are HARD. Being healthy looks different for every single person. There is no one size fits all. If you were able to incorporate 10 healthy lifestyle habits this year, wouldn’t you consider that great progress? 

Time, energy, and finances are just a few of the many barriers we face when attempting to improve our lifestyle habits. Just 10 minutes of practicing your goal setting skills can increase your chances for success exponentially. Set aside time to think about what you want to accomplish and the steps it will take to achieve. 

Leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be spending countless hours doing cardio and/or in the kitchen meal prepping to eat the same boring chicken, broccoli and rice all week. Rather than the “all-in” approach where you unrealistically attempt to drastically change every aspect of your lifestyle to a HEALTHY one, consider setting a series of small, realistic, and sustainable goals. If the lifestyle habit isn’t sustainable, neither are the results. 

SMART Goals 

Smart goal setting is a well-established approach to ensure goals are clear and reachable. Each goal should be:

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable)
  • Realistic (relevant, reasonable, results-based)
  • Timely (time-based, time-bound, time-sensitive)

Examples

  • Instead of “I will work out more,” try “I will move my body for 30 minutes 3x/week or more for the month of February.” 
  • Instead of “I will eat healthier,” try “I will include at least 5 colors of the rainbow in fruits and vegetables on weekdays for 1 month,” or “I will scratch make a dinner meal 3x/week for 6 weeks.”
  • Instead of “I will spend more time with family,” try “I will turn off all screens 3 nights a week for 1 hour in the evenings after dinner until daylight savings.”

Choose 3 small goals to work on over the next month and leave room for growth! Divide the goals up so that you start with the easiest. After 10 days, incorporate the 2nd goal and 10 days after that, the 3rd goal. If you haven’t achieved a goal after 10 days, give yourself some grace. Maybe the goal needs to be adjusted to make it more achievable or maybe the goal just needs more time. Find a place to keep track of your progress for increased accountability. Look for an app on your smart phone or keep a journal.

Having an end date for your goal will help it seem more achievable and increase accountability. Chances are, if the goal you set was SMART, you’ll end up adopting the healthy lifestyle habit on a more permanent and sustainable basis. 

By Alison Fenske, MS, RDN. 

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