Developing SMART Goals
We are now in the second half of the year – how is that possible? That means it’s time to look the goals we’ve set and evaluate the progress we’ve made. Many times, we are unable to make progress because we are frozen by “What If” . . . What if this happens or what if that doesn’t happen? Fear and anxiety can cause you to stall in your efforts, or even keep you from getting started. Don’t let fear paralyze you! By developing SMART Goals, you can be successful.
Goals Should Be Clear
The first step to make progress towards your goal is to clearly define your goal. This may seem obvious, but a goal of “I want to get fit” or “I need to manage my diabetes” isn’t clearly defined. A clearly defined Big Picture Goal looks more like, “I will lower my total cholesterol by 25 points over the next 6 months through dietary and lifestyle changes.”
Next, you can work on creating Focus Goals that will get you to Milestone Markers. Focus Goals are the Baby Steps that will move you forward, while Milestone Markers are significant points that you can track on your journey toward lowering your total cholesterol.
For example, it is difficult to be successful at meal prep each week if you don’t have the recipes or cooking skills needed! If you are used to fast food burgers & fries, microwave dinners & frozen pizza, you will need a plan to transition.
Developing SMART goals is key to your continued success. You should make sure both Focus Goals and Milestone Markers are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.
A Milestone Marker that is specific to dietary change might be: Prep 3 dinners this week. A lifestyle change Milestone Marker could be: Ride 5 laps around neighborhood on bicycle each night.
If you don’t have the time to sort through recipes, create a grocery list or go to the grocery store, you might consider subscribing to meal delivery service. This would be a great Focus Goal to help you acquire cooking skills and recipes without the hassle of shopping and prepping for each meal. Riding a bicycle could be the perfect way to incorporate movement in your life. However, if you don’t own a bicycle it can’t happen!
TIP: Focus Goals and Milestones should answer Who? What? When? Where? & Why? If at all possible.
How will you know if you’ve accomplished the Focus Goals that will help you get to your Milestones? You should be able to answer a simple Yes/No question – Did I subscribe to the meal service? Did I purchase the bicycle? If you answered “yes”, congratulations!
Other goals might have a numeric component associated with them. For example, you might set a dietary goal to drink 96 oz of water each day or eat at least 2 servings of plants at each meal. A lifestyle goal might be to walk at least 5,000 steps each day.
Accomplishing anything big is kind of like eating an elephant. You gotta do it one bite at a time. Your Focus Goals & Milestones should be challenging enough to require some effort, but not so hard as to be unsustainable. If you are used to fast food & convenience foods for every meal, expecting to cook 21 meals/week wouldn’t be sustainable! If you’ve never run 100 yards, it would be unreasonable to try to run 5 miles each morning.
Both Focus Goals & Milestones should result in a direct path to your Big Picture Goal. If your goal is to lower your cholesterol, it might not make sense to see a therapist each week. However, if you are experiencing depression and frequently “eat your feelings”, seeing a counselor each week could help you reduce your total cholesterol reading.
When we are working with Focus Goals – the baby steps that get you to your Milestones – accomplishing them one time is probably not going to be enough to gain the traction you need to progress. For example, cooking 3 whole food dinners once is not going to make that big of a difference in your total cholesterol numbers. You should probably practice cooking dinner 3x/week for at least 2-3 weeks or until it feels “normal”. Then move it to 5x/week or mix it up with 3 dinners and 3 breakfasts each week.
Considerations when Developing SMART Goals
When you set your Milestone, consider how many steps it will take to get you there and how long each step should take to master. There will probably be (at least) 3-4 Focus Goals between Milestones.
Having all your meals be whole food based (that’s 21 each week!) will probably take you more than 2-3 weeks to accomplish and continue to be sustainable.
Write It Down & Be Accountable!
It isn’t advisable to have “an idea” of what you should do just floating around in your head. Write the step you are working on in a prominent place where you will see it on a regular basis. When you write it down, your success rate automatically goes up by 42%!
Additionally, recruiting an accountability partner will reduce procrastination and blame and help you accept personal responsibility for your progress (or lack thereof!) Your accountability partner doesn’t have to be on the same journey but should be someone you trust and who will support you.
TIP: Using reminders on your phone or joining a FB group you can check-in with might be a good way to develop accountability.
Be Flexible & Celebrate!
I’ll be the first person to give you the bad news: Your journey will not be without setbacks! While it can be discouraging, failing at Step 5 doesn’t mean the mission is a complete failure.
When this happens, take a step back and ask:
- Is this goal too challenging?
- Can this goal be broken up into smaller pieces?
- Should I go back to the previous step for another week?
- Is this the right step?
By answering these questions, you should have learned more about the process and yourself – and that is a reason to celebrate! With the information you’ve gathered in this exercise you can now continue to move forward.