The Secret to Setting SMART Health Goals
January 7, 2019
The problem with a diet is that it’s temporary by definition, and New Year’s resolutions tend to be too daunting. That’s why the secret to being your healthiest self is to follow the S.M.A.R.T. system when it comes to setting your health goals. Instead of going for short-term solutions or putting unrealistic expectations on yourself, you’ll enjoy ongoing, approachable wellness.
How the S.M.A.R.T. System Works
S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound. So let’s say your goal is cutting your processed sugar intake in half. That’s Specific, but you’d have to start by keeping track of how much sugar you eat throughout a week. Once that’s determined, cutting that intake in half is Measurable. The goal itself is Achievable and Realistic for anyone, which is why we used it as an example, but don’t make the mistake of thinking Achievable and Realistic are the same. Achievable just means that it’s possible, while Realistic means it can be done without pain and anguish. (The reason New Year’s resolutions so often fail is that they’re technically achievable but unrealistic. They also fail because they’re not Timebound.) Instead of cutting your sugar intake in half in general, cut it in half for a week. That way, you can actually reach a goal. After all, a goal can’t be reached without an endpoint.
Applying the System to Your Wellness
Chances are, you already have a health goal in mind. And whether it’s losing a specific amount of weight or simply exercising more often, the S.M.A.R.T. system should be utilized. Because when all five of the criteria are met—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound—you can get it done. But it still sounds temporary, doesn’t it? The T is for Timebound. But that’s why keeping a health and fitness journal can be so helpful.
Thinking of Goals Like Steps
Once you have a journal (more on that in the next section) and can start figuring out the health areas you can improve, you set a goal and achieve it with the S.M.A.R.T. system. Then you either tweak it depending on the results or set the same goal and do it again. Either way, you’re continuing the lifestyle change and building a habit. The more goals you achieve, the more daily, weekly, and/or monthly goals you can add. In fact, you might even want to use the S.M.A.R.T. system to set how many health goals you want to get to. You could do something like: “In two months, I’ll make two major changes to my diet and two big improvements to my exercise routine.” It’s specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and bound to two months’ time.
Types of Journals
If you search “Health Journals,” you’ll find tons of notebooks specifically designed for keeping track of your health and fitness. From the things you eat to the workouts you do, they make it easy to dive in. But for my money, a standard spiral notebook works great, and many use a spreadsheet to keep track of everything. (Color-coding is fun!) If it’s organized and easy to reference back to, you’re good to go.
Sticking to It
It probably won’t surprise you that achieving a goal is immensely satisfying. But it’s also incredibly motivating – the more you complete, the easier and more rewarding they become. If you focus on the S.M.A.R.T. system, you’ll notice how the specific goals become more specific, the measuring becomes more accurate, and the unachievable and unrealistic of the past becomes more than achievable today. Best of all, if your goal becomes a subconscious everyday adjustment, you don’t have to use the S.M.A.R.T. system anymore. Because it’s no longer a goal; now, it’s just a way of life.