2018, it’s been a great year, hasn’t it?
Thankfully, with every end comes a new beginning! For most people, this is when people begin to finalize what they want to accomplish during the next year. Ambitions and motivation are at their highest right now. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last for long. Give it about a month (sometimes even less), and they’re right back to their old habits.
In this article, I’ll tell you how you can avoid what seems to be an inevitable pitfall for all of us during this transition into the new year. 2019, we’re coming for ya!
The Problem with Most Goals
The common issue that most people run into is their goals themselves. Usually, they’re:
- Too vague
- Too ambitious
- Not ambitious enough
- Not able to be calculated or tracked
- Not motivating enough to be reached because there’s no deadline
In order for us to achieve our goals, we have to modify them based on these common problems. This is where SMART goals come into the picture.
What are SMART Goals?
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Each of these letters of the acronym addresses the problems I mentioned earlier. But did I just make up this random acronym? No, of course not! I’m not THAT smart 😉
It was actually first developed in 1981 as a method to write effective goals for management teams. Today, it has spread as far as the current literature that we have today on program planning and evaluation for several public health initiatives. This includes ones by the Center
Because of these released publications about SMART goals, it has fallen into the mainstream, primarily academic settings. Alright, now that he have that out of the way, let’s dive into how each one can help you set up some reachable goals.
Alright, so this addresses goals that are too vague. Many people fail because they simply don’t know how to get to there end result. The key here is to set up both short-term and long-term goals
For example, let’s say that your goal is to lose weight this year. Okay, that’s really vague, let’s make that more specific.
So let’s set up a long-term goal first so that we know where we’re going. How much weight do you want to lose? For the sake of simplicity, we’ll say 30 lbs. Okay, but how do we get there?
We now set up our short-term goals! We’ll do this by splitting it up into little weight loss milestones. Every month, we’ll try to aim for 5 lbs of fat loss, which equals out to about 1.25 lbs per week. A note to keep in mind here is that the results won’t be exactly linear, but that’s alright. As long as we hit our target by the end of the month.
In this way, we can make adjustments if we happen to unfortunately not hit our goal. If we’re 1-2 lbs short on our goal, we can evaluate and determine what our next course of action is. In this example, we could cut our calories a bit more or add some more cardio. These mini short-term goals help us to reevaluate and modify without falling that far off track from our original long-term goal.
Okay, so next on our list is that our goal has to be able to be measured in some way. The example above simply used body weight, but there are many more options then that. Also, it’s smart to use more than one measure, as it helps us evaluate our performance later on.
We’ll stick with this example of 30 lbs of weight loss. How else can we measure our progress towards this goal? We can use a tape measure to measure our waist and hips. We can take progress photos once every week along with our weigh-ins. We can use body fat calipers to track our body fat percentage over time. You get the picture.
In this way, we’ll be able to get a more detailed and in-depth look at where we’re headed. Not measuring any sort of progress is like going on a road trip without any of your cars’ gauges in working order. How are you supposed to continue your trip if you don’t know how much gas you have left or if you need to get an oil change?
This lines up with the problem of being too ambitious and overzealous about your goals. It’s great that you want to shoot for the stars and
This is also where our short-term goals come in again. We want to make sure that they’re realistic to what we want to achieve. And don’t worry! It’s okay if you get it wrong the first couple of times! That’s what our evaluations and modifications are for. That’s how we learn, and thus, the process gets easier and easier with time. R
This aspect of SMART goals helps you to determine if you’re on the right track. Are your short-term goals aligned properly with your long-term goal? Are you performing the right actions to get yourself where you need to go?
In our fat-loss example, if you’re trying to lose this weight, don’t be doing only cardio and completely forgoing strength training. You’ll definitely lose more than just fat doing that. And also, don’t just do the proper exercise protocol but completely forget about calorie control.
This really stresses that you’re not wasting your time on tasks that don’t help you to reach your goals. If it won’t help get you there, then don’t do it. That simple.
Last but definitely not least, we have to make sure that we have an established deadline in place. This means for our short-term goals as well, not just our primary long-term goal.
When we establish deadlines, we create a sense of urgency within ourselves to get the job done no matter what. If we don’t have a set deadline, we’ll most likely just keep finding excuses to not accomplish our goals and we’ll forever be “spinning our wheels in the mud”, asking ourselves why we aren’t where we want to be.
Now Go Set Some Goals!
We now know how to set these goals, so let’s use the knowledge we just gained and actually apply it. We can read and read all that we want to and feel like we’re making progress because we learned something new. But without application, knowledge is useless.
Go enjoy the rest of the holiday season and ring in 2019 with pride, knowing that you’re going to set some goals that you’re actually going to achieve this year! 2019 is gonna be one hell of a year.
Bjerke, M. B., & Renger, R. (2017). Being smart about writing SMART objectives. Evaluation and Program Planning,61, 125-127.