How many times have you set a goal and failed? How often have you set a goal and quit because you couldn't tell if you were making progress? How many times have you not know for sure whether you reached your goal?
All of these cases are common. I hear them from new clients every day. The good news is: you are not the problem. The problem is the way you set goals. Chances are you're not being SMART about them.
Let's take a look at how to effectively challenge yourself through well defined goals with clear progress markers.
ARE YOUR GOALS TOO WISHY-WASHY?
There is one huge problem with most health and fitness goals. The language used when setting the goal makes it impossible to know if it has been achieved.
Aesthetic goals like "lose weight", "get in better shape", or "be more fit" are left completely up to interpretation and are defined in very subjective terms.
Performance or health goals are often even more ill-defined. "Feel better", "sleep better", and "have more energy" are just as useless when it comes to making noticeable progress.
Goals need context and qualifiers. The language you build your goal with must include a way to tell if you've met your goal in strict, precise terms.
That's where the need for S.M.A.R.T. goals comes from.
HOW TO SET S.M.A.R.T. GOALS
Goals need clear a definition to succeed. Follow the steps below to define yours clearly and build a plan to accomplishing them.
Specific: Be as specific as possible. “I want to lose weight” is not as helpful as “I want to lose 12 pounds of body fat”.
Measurable: How will you measure weight loss? You can use a scale, test your body fat percentage, use circumference measurements, or even go by how well your clothes fit. Just keep the method consistent.
Attainable: Be realistic with your goals. Losing 40 pounds in 2 weeks is not an attainable goal. Sometimes that means taking more time to reach your ultimate goal and that’s ok. In our example, an attainable goal would be to lose 12 pounds in 12 weeks. Goals like getting Brad Pitt abs are difficult to attain if you work 50 hours per week and have a family. Other commitments and priorities may not allow for that level of fitness. Consider your lifestyle and schedule. Fitness should be a part of your life, it doesn’t have to consume it.
Relevant: What is your underlying reason for pursuing this goal? Be brutally honest with yourself. I’ve heard reasons ranging from “I want to feel more energetic throughout the day” to “ I’m getting divorced and want to be a hot single person”. No one else has to know your real reason, but you need to be honest with yourself. When things get tough, that is the one thing that will keep you going.
Time-bound: The old saying from Napoleon Hill goes “A goal is just a dream with a deadline” and it’s absolutely true. Open-ended goal setting is ineffective. Light a fire in yourself by having a realistic due date. Also plan when you will do the work. Schedule your gym and food shopping/prep time in your calendar and stick to it.
Trade-offs: You have a finite number of hours in a day. When you add one thing into your life, you have to give up something else. Even after the SMART goal is set, you have to think about what you will sacrifice to make room for it.
Specific: I will lose 12 pounds
Measurable: I will measure my progress using a scale, measuring once per week
Attainable: This goal is reasonable and fits into my other obligations and priorities.
Relevant: I want to look lean and athletic in my swimsuit for my hawaiian vacation.
Time-bound: I will lose the weight in the next 12 weeks. I’ll go to the gym Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for an hour. I will grocery shop and prepare meals on Tuesday and Saturday.
Trade-offs: I will go to the gym instead of happy hour with my work friends. I will meal prep and grocery shop instead of watching TV.
You can save the image below as a blank worksheet for setting your own SMART goals.
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