Have you ever written down health goals for your day, week, or year? How many of those get accomplished in the time frame you want them to be done in? This may not have anything to do with your motivation level, it may be that you are writing your goals wrong. SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. (1) These can be applied to any type of goal, but they are especially helpful for health and nutrition goals. Let’s say you made a goal to lose 15 lbs. While this is a good starting goal, there are no guidelines that go along with it. The SMART version of this would be “I want to improve my health and well-being by making the effort to work out and eat healthy and lose 15 lbs in the next 3 months.” This goal now gives you direction on why its important, how you are going to accomplish it, what is going to be accomplished and in what time frame. SMART goals have been found to make goal achievement more likely in health-related change. (2)
We’re going to walk through each step so that you can utilize SMART goals the next time you want to make a change towards a healthier life. The first step is S: Specific. When writing goals, we often make them vague, because its easier to push them back or fall through on them if they aren’t specific. Think about what you want to accomplish, who is responsible for it to get done, and what steps will need to be taken for it to be achieved. Next is M: Measurable. If you quantify your goal, you will be able to track your progress easier and it will be clearer when the goal has been reached. For example, if you just say that you want to lose weight you won’t be able to measure anything, but if you say 15 lbs then you have a measurable item that you can track as you lose weight. Next is A: Achievable. This is harder with health goals because achievable can mean different things for different people. But you want to focus on what you will be able to achieve with this goal. Saying you want to lose 15 lbs in the next two weeks for an event is not an achievable goal because losing that much weight so quickly is dangerous. Expanding the time frame to 3 months makes it more achievable, but again this is different for everyone. Second to last, we have R: Realistic. This is like achievable; you want to actually be able to accomplish this goal. Making it realistic could mean that it is the right time in your life to make these changes. For example, if you just had a heart attack and are bed bound, it isn’t a realistic time to want to start exercising and losing weight. Think about what is realistic for you to accomplish right now and start there. Lastly is T: Timely. You want to make sure you are setting a time frame that this will be accomplished in. You are much more likely to complete a goal that you know you have a deadline on then one that is just open ended.
2. Bailey RR. Goal Setting and Action Planning for Health Behavior Change. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Sep 13;13(6):615-618. doi: 10.1177/1559827617729634. PMID: 31662729; PMCID: PMC6796229.