Written by Cherie Rivas
Reaching the heights of a gold medal Olympian, competing in an obstacle race or simply doing 5k’s at your local Park Run may not be on your health & fitness radar…. but regardless of how large or small your wellness goal is, your success can be achieved through the same serious of simple steps.
You’re probably already familiar with the ‘S.M.A.R.T Goals’ principles, especially in the working environment context…. but did you know, it’s just as effective when applied to your own personal wellness goals too?
Possibly because of my previous managerial experience in compliance driven industries, I found this principle invaluable when I initially embarked on my own lifestyle overhaul.
I’m confident that it will work for you too, so I’d love to share how to apply each of the principles, so that you can also achieve the greatest value for your health, fitness and general wellness.
So what’s a SMART goal I hear you ask? Well a SMART goal is:
T: Time based
When it comes to health (and especially weight loss), it’s really important to get the right balance of ‘specific’!
Your goal needs to help you achieve an actual outcome. It needs to define or illustrate your big picture vision and therefore can’t be too arbitrary, but being overly specific can also set you up for failure!
So…. a vague goal of “I want to get healthier” is not very helpful, in that it doesn’t provide the crystal clear outcome you ultimately want to achieve. It’s far too broad in its description and is open to both rationally and emotionally driven opinion.
Aim to drill down into a more specific level of detail. For instance, “I will improve my waist line measurement”, or “I will achieve a healthy cholesterol level” or “I will improve my resting heart rate”, are all specific enough to allow for the creation of goal focused action. (Also note the positive, ‘success driven’ language used).
When setting goals, it’s also important to avoid being overly specific, as this can lead to disappointment or a sense of failure, if the precise goal isn’t achieved. Your body far better designed to function within a ‘healthy range’ rather than at a precise unit of measurement (which it doesn’t understand) anyway.
For example, “I want to weigh 63 kilograms”, might actually be a physical impossibility for your body’s structure. A more helpful goal may be: “I will achieve a healthy body fat ratio”. (These ratios and a whole range of other ‘health indicators’ have already been determined by official health bodies if you require those benchmarks).
You want to feel that sense of achievement, right?! You want to feel good knowing that your actions achieved your desired outcome & you want that feeling to reinforce all those helpful actions that will then lead to firmly ingrained habits.
Your goals therefore need to be quantifiable! You can measure your success in a number of ways… either by basing your goals on pre-determined benchmarks (such as the recognised ‘health indicators’), or by the achievement of some other pre-determined outcome.
For example, “I want to get fitter”, does not provide any component by which to measure what fitness it (to you as an individual). However the goal of “I will jog 5 kilometres”, or “I will exercise 3 times per week”, is clearly defined and measurable, and therefore the achievement of success is easily determined.
Did you jog 5 kilometres, yes or no? Did you exercise 3 times this week, yes or no? Whatever you goal is, the measure of success needs to be definitive.
Achievable (Simple Ways)
It’s always important to have your big picture destination and outcome on the horizon in order to guide your goal focussed actions…. however, there’s also a risk of becoming too overwhelmed by the magnitude of such a large goal which can often result in the loss of motivation, self-sabotaging behaviours, and a sense of failure.
Keep you daily focus instead, on the smaller, achievable goals that inspire you to keep putting one foot in front of the other!
Small step-based ‘micro-goals’ are always far more achievable and will give you a few quick wins to keep you motivated and consistently moving forward.
So for example, instead of “I want to lose 40 kilograms”, (and yes, I’ve personally done this on several occasions), a more helpful goal to consider might be more along the lines of “I will improve my body fat composition by 5%”.
Realistic &/or Relevant (Simple Ways)
This step requires some real objective thought and critical evaluation because sometimes our goal setting can be driven by emotion, rather than rational thinking! Consider seeking a second opinion if you’ve fallen into this trap previously.
Quite simply, you actually want to be able to achieve you goal…. so it needs to be within your reach. If it’s beyond the realms of possibility, all your hard work trying to achieve your goal will go completely unrewarded, leaving you with a sense of failure. It might also undermine your overall confidence levels and feeling of self-worth.
Making the goal directly relevant to your ‘why’ will also reinforce your motivation & help you to stick with those consistent steps forward.
“I want to lose 30 kilos in 3 months”, is not only unrealistic (from a self-care perspective), but it may also establish harmful practices in the long term. A more helpful goal to consider may be along the lines of “I will improve my body composition over 3 months to fit into my wedding dress”.
Timely / Time Based (Simple Ways)
Without a time based element attached to your goal, there’s no sense of urgency to achieve it. By having an open ended completion date, goal focussed actions are likely to be less consistent and motivation will fade over time. A deadline creates a specific target to strive for.
Your time based goal may also relate to a review or goal reassessment date, not necessarily the completion date. Let’s face it, as humans we are constantly evolving, so reassessing our goals is also important to ensure that they constantly remain relevant to our stage and direction in life.
It’s important that you allow wellness based goals adequate time to come to fruition. They won’t happen overnight…. your body needs time to adapt and progressively improve, so give yourself at least 6 weeks before you assess your progress.
Finally…. (Simple Ways)
When you’ve figured out your goal, write it down!!
By writing it down, you mindfully commit your intentions and focus. By having it visible, it prompts the visualisation of your big picture goal and becomes an ongoing reminder of your ‘why’.