We all have things that we want to change and goals that we are working towards: lose 15 pounds, drink more water, exercise more often…But how do we turn those dreams into reality? In this post we review SMART goals and explain why they help us achieve success and turn those dreams and goals into reality!
So what is a SMART goal?
A SMART goal is a way to make progress towards our end goals. It is a way to break a vision into smaller, actionable steps that can be taken each week. An example of this would be to take a 3 month goal, such as “I would like to be going to the gym for 1 hour three times per week” and turning it into a SMART goal of “I will go the the store on Wednesday at 10am to buy a pair of sneakers this week.” You feel energized and encouraged when you achieve that goal, and are ready to set a new goal for the next week! Each week with small “wins” leads to confidence and takes you one step closer to your 3 month goal. However, these goals have certain elements that are crucial towards ensuring success.
A SMART goal needs to be specific. Which action or behavior will you engage in this week? Being specific about the details of “how” and “when” gives you a time-frame. It is the difference between “I’ll get around to it” versus “I will do this on Wednesday at 10am.” Although it can be difficult to choose where to begin, starting small and being specific will set you up for action.
A SMART goal needs to be measurable. How will you tell if you have met your goal or not? It can’t be just a “feeling” or a subjective answer. Making your goal measurable takes the ambiguity out of your goals! It is the “yes” or “no” part of the goal. “Yes, I bought my sneakers at 10am on Wednesday.”
SMART goals need to be action-based. This is the part that takes a lofty dream and turns it into reality! What are the steps that you need to take to achieve your 3 month goal? Do you have sneakers? Is there a gym nearby? You can use a brainstorming session to come up with everything that you can think of that is an action or behavior towards achieving your goal. Then pick 1-5 goals to complete that week. When I coach clients, I make sure they are confident that they can “win” that week! Start small and gain your confidence before tackling larger weekly goals. Remember, your end result is a lasting lifestyle change and takes time in order to be permanent.
SMART goals need to be realistic. I am the first to admit that when I am ready to make a change, I approach it with an “all or nothing” attitude. In the past, I would decide to have a goal of something difficult, like going carb-free. Did I break it down into smaller “wins”? NOPE. I would spend the next 2 days eating nothing but spinach and pepperoni. By day three I would be sick of spinach and that pepperoni turned into a pepperoni pizza.
Realistic goals refer to the part of SMART goals that are something you can ACTUALLY stick with. In keeping with our gym example, I know it is realistic that I will buy sneakers this week. I know that it is not realistic for me to exercise 3 hours every single day at the gym this week. REALISTIC goals (be kind to yourself!) Success builds self-efficacy and self-esteem. Nothing hinders the change process more than setting unrealistic and unachievable goals. However, it feels really good to accomplish goals each week and arrive at that 3 month change in a way that was positive and enjoyable!
A SMART goal needs to be time-bound. This is something you would like to do this week. Don’t worry–you will be setting new goals for next week! But look at your calendar and be specific about what day and time you will do this goal. When will you complete this action this week? On Wednesday at 10am.
Here are some examples of general goals that have been turned into SMART goals:
- Task: “I am going to buy shoes this week” turns into a SMART goal: “I am going to buy sneakers at 10am on Wednesday.”
- Exercise: “I want to go to the gym” turns into “I will go to the gym on Wednesday at 4pm for the new Yoga class”
- Health: “I think I should eat healthier” turns into “I will eat a spinach salad for lunch on Thursday.”
It feels really, really good to accomplish something amazing. As a coach, I love watching my clients succeed! Each week I help them design goals and watch them achieve things they never thought they could do! Have you ever worked with a coach? Feel free to get in touch with me, I would love to help you too! And if you are looking for more ways to make lasting changes, read “Implementing Self Care Routines that Stick.”