While no two clients are alike, I typically notice a recurring theme the first time I meet with people: frustration and disappointment resulting from one or more failed attempts towards their health goal.
“My new year’s resolution was to eat better, but I fell off the wagon in mid-January. I always do that.”
“I’ve been trying to lose the same 25 pounds for at least ten years.”
“I’d like to cut out sweets, but I haven’t been sticking with it. I have no willpower.”
Phrases like these allow me to pinpoint one major issue right away; it’s not a shortcoming in my clients causing them to struggle, it’s their goals! Enter the concept of SMART goals.
Many are familiar with using SMART goals in the corporate setting, but they shouldn’t be limited to the boardroom. They provide detailed directions about how a goal is going to be achieved. For those who haven’t heard of the concept, SMART is a pneumonic standing for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound. Let’s break each of these attributes down.
Specific. A goal is specific if it answers at least a few of the W questions:
- What do I want to accomplish?
- Who is involved?
- Where is it taking place?
- When will it happen?
- Why is it important?
Measurable. A goal is measurable if you know definitively whether you’ve achieved it.
Attainable (aka realistic). A goal is attainable if it is something you realistically feel you can accomplish. This is where you need to be honest with yourself. If my client who’d like to eliminate sweets currently finishes most meals with dessert, and snacks on candy in between, is going cold turkey the best first step? My favorite mantra here is perfection is the enemy of progress. Create a series of SMART goals that move you in the right direction and you’ll get there eventually.
Relevant. A goal is relevant if it fits you and your lifestyle. Forget about what people tell you should do, what is it that you can do now? Also make sure your goal will help you achieve the outcome you want. For instance, if you’d like to lose weight and maintain your weight loss, a SMART goal to do a three day juice cleanse is probably not the answer.
Time-bound. When a goal is grounded in a timeframe, there is a definitive point at which you know whether or not you’ve achieved it. This creates a sense of urgency.
It’s also important to note here the difference between goals and outcomes. Goals are action-oriented. Outcomes are simply endpoints. For instance, my client who has not been able to lose 25 pounds might be struggling because weight loss is an outcome. Multiple SMART goals for exercise and diet change will get him there.
Example 1: ” I will swap the free chips that come with my sandwich at lunch with the free apple or carrot sticks Monday through Friday.”
Example 2: “I will take the stairs rather than the elevator every time my destination is less than three stories up.”
So if you’re wellness goal has been setting you up for failure, say it now, and say it with confidence: “It’s not me, it’s definitely YOU!” Then get ready to move on the SMART way.