- Bettina Applewhite
Are Your Goals S.M.A.R.T.?
During many different times in our lives we often make goals and re-evaluate where we are and where we want to be. Goals can be motivating but they can also send us spiraling downward when your goals seem far out of reach. The key is to make sure that you are making S.M.A.R.T. goals.
Goals are best achieved when they are S.M.A.R.T. The letters stand for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based.
Goals encourage us to keep getting better and growing. We can get better in our crafts, careers, home, and within ourselves. I've often found that I am my best self when I'm reaching for a goal.
Specificity helps to guide the process. Vague goals don't have enough focus to get you to your goals. Take a look at the two sentences below. Which is more specific? Which is more clear about the goal?
Statement 1: I want to lose weight.
Statement 2: I want to lose 15 pounds.
Knowing the exact goal will help you to create a plan to reach the goal. When the goal is too vague, the goal will seem unattainable. The assignment must be clear in order for you to make your best effort in achieving your goal.
Being specific will also help to pinpoint the exact desire you want to achieve. Goal building takes some thought. I want more space in my home to stretch out. Does that mean I want an additional bedroom, more living room space for entertaining, a bigger pantry for kitchen storage, or a larger backyard for play? When I get to the specifics of my ideas, I can be more intentional about how to achieve those goals.
A goal needs to be measurable in order for you to know when you've completed the goal and reached success. Goals that are based on feelings are difficult to attain. Chasing feelings are not fun and the thing that you think that will get you there may very well not do it. If the goal is to "look better" or "feel better", determine what is a measurable goal to get you there. Does feeling better mean being able to walk a city block without running out of breath? Will you feel better once you spend more time with friends and family? Make sure that the goal has a definite end point and that you know when it has been achieved. Take a look at the examples below. Which statement has a measurable goal? Which statement defines when the goal has been achieved.
Statement 1: I want to eat less.
Statement 2: I want to decrease my caloric intake by 250 calories a day.
I've heard many people including myself talk about feeling better in clothes. Is it because the clothes are tightly fitted? So will losing 5 - 10 pounds help the clothes feel better? Or is it a body perception issue which may have nothing to do with weight loss?
Keep your goals definitive and distinguishable so that you know exactly when they have been achieved. You'll also know when it's time to re-evaluate your steps or method when you haven't reached your goal.
Goals that aren't attainable are the fastest way to lose motivation. Working hard to never achieve your desired outcome is frustrating. Make sure your goals are realistic. Sometimes there are long term goals and short term goals. Long term goals are achievable when you break it up into smaller goals. Maybe your long term goal is to lose 50 pounds. 50 pounds can seem overwhelming. Instead of seeing the progress, you may be tempted to focus on the fact that you're not at your goal yet. You can achieve the same goal of losing 50 pounds by setting goals in 10 pound increments.
Maybe your goal is to start meal prepping for all your meals during the weekdays, but you don't like cooking. You can start with a more attainable goal of preparing your weekday breakfast meals on Sunday afternoons. You can continue to build goals of planning lunches ahead and packing snacks between meals. Breaking bigger goals into smaller sections is much more helpful than grouping the larger goal into one basket.
What resources do you have available to help you reach your goals? What do you need to do in order to help you achieve the goal in mind.
Only you know what is attainable and realistic for you. Determining what is attainable requires that you are honest with yourself, your lifestyle, and your abilities. I'm currently training for a half marathon. An unattainable goal for me would to say that I am going to qualify for the Olympics. An attainable goal is to finish the race without injury.
Statement 1: I will never eat another sweet thing again.
Statement 2: I will limit soda with added sugars to twice a week.
To check if a goal is attainable, ask yourself is this within your control. If it is not within your control, what part is or is not part of your control. There may be many aspects of your life that are out of your control. In 2020, we saw that gyms and other businesses being open were out of our control. So in 2020, if the goal was to exercise 4 times a week, relying on a gym membership was out of our control. But we could adapt by finding YouTube videos to follow. We could go for walks outside or have dance parties with our family to keep us active. Evaluating what is in and out of our control, helps with making attainable goals.
A goal needs to be relevant to your life and what is going on now. A goal has to be in the present. There may be future goals or long term goals that you already have planned, but what are you doing now to get you to that goal?
You may also want to consider if the goal is relevant to the big picture that you have for your life. For example, a goal you may have is to not get out of breath when having play time with your children. Is it necessary to be able to run a marathon to achieve this goal? That's highly unlikely. But it may be necessary that you will have to keep up cardio activities for 30 - 60 minutes nonstop. With all the technology available from smart watches and phones, you can measure your heart rate and set a goal from there. You may sign up for Zumba classes or join a 5k running group. How you achieve that goal is based on your needs.
If a goal is not based on something that is important to your life, it is likely that you will lose interest in the goal and quit before you reach it. Find something that brings you joy.
A goal can't go on forever. A goal needs to have a time-frame. If the goal is to lose 15 pounds, what is a realistic time-frame to accomplish this goal? If you lose a pound a week, 15 weeks is a time-frame that will keep you motivated and allows you to have check-ins to ensure that you are still on track to achieve your goal.
Time-based goals have motivational deadlines. If the goal wasn't achieved within the time-frame, re-evaluate the situation to find out why. Was the goal unattainable? Did something outside of your control affect the goal?
A goal must also be challenging. Part of the fun of achieving the goal is knowing that you've made a change or overcome something that you previously found difficult. Or sometimes the feeling of crossing something off your to-do list is motivating enough to keep you going.
Whatever the reason, find out your why and remember it throughout the process.
Below are some examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals. Use them as a starting point and come up with your own goals.