Goal Setting 101
Here we go again… out with the old and in with the New Year’s resolutions. Did you know that according to U.S. News, 80% of the people who have set New Year’s resolutions have fallen off the bandwagon by the second week of February? Did you also know that the most common resolution is to lose weight and eat healthier but only 9.2% of the people hoping for this outcome actually report achieving what they set out to do? Why even make a resolution if the probability of maintaining it is so dismal? Don’t despair! You CAN reach your desired resolution and here’s how…
One of the biggest roadblocks to sticking with our plans for a thinner, healthier, happier self is our inability to set realistic goals and then break down the necessary steps to reach them. Stating a desired outcome such as “I want to be slimmer by summer” or “I want to run a 5K this year” doesn’t provide you with any sort of game plan. Bill Copeland, a former Olympic athlete once said “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score”. A well thought out goal not only gives you a destination but also includes a roadmap and timeline for getting there.
One of the most common goal setting techniques is called a “SMART Goal” which stands for:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant or Realistic
T = Time-Bound
Let’s see how this might look when we apply it to the common New Year’s resolution of losing weight. Instead of simply stating “I want to be thinner”, we’ll set a specific SMART goal instead:
S = (Specific) I want to lose 15 pounds.
M = (Measurable) I’ll weigh myself weekly to check progress
A = (Attainable) Can I lose this much in the allotted time frame?
R = (Relevant/realistic) Is this realistic for my current health status?
T = (Time-Bound) How much time do I have to reach my goal?
“I want to lose 15 pounds in 3 months by walking 30 minutes during my lunch break. I’ll weigh myself each Saturday morning. My beginning weight on January 5th, 2019 is .”
Some other things to keep in mind when setting goals:
- Goals should be yours and yours alone. Making lasting behavioral change takes passion and grit. If you’re trying to achieve a goal that someone else has set for you, chances are your heart won’t be in it.
- Write your goal down. Just the act of physically writing it down helps crystallize the idea in your mind, giving it priority and force.
- Make adjustments. If you sprain your ankle, you’ll need to adjust your original goal of walking 30 minutes during lunch. This doesn’t mean you abandon the goal! Look for alternatives such as reducing your calorie intake by 200 calories or switch to swimming at the YMCA until your ankle heals. You may also need to adjust your time-frame for achieving your weight loss goal but it is definitely still attainable.
- Share goals with people who support you. By verbalizing your intentions to people who encourage and motivate you, you’re building an extra measure of accountability into your game plan.
- Stay positive even through setbacks. Life is messy and barriers will almost certainly come your way. Use difficult or unexpected situations as opportunities for learning and try to think “outside the box”. Most barriers have a way over, under, or around if you’re truly determined to reach the end.
- And lastly… Rewards! It’s important to set up small rewards for yourself along the way to your goal. These should be meaningful expressions of gratitude to yourself for the hard work that is bringing you closer to your desired result. In the case of weight loss, it’s important that these rewards do not hinder your progress so you may want to steer clear of food items. A few ideas might include a new pair of walking shoes, a pedicure, a special brand of flavored water, a trip to Pike Place Market for fresh vegetables, or a day spent trying on new, smaller size clothes at your favorite mall (no purchase required!).
Once you reach your goal, Congratulations! You’ve accomplished something amazing but this is just the beginning. Continue setting more goals to help you maintain your current achievement while pushing yourself to the next level. Start with one specific area of your life (such as our weight loss/health example) and then begin to apply goals to other areas like family, career, and public service. For more great ideas on how to get started with goal setting, check out these additional resources and then start formulating your best New Year’s resolution to date!
- 7 Important Reasons Why You Should Set Goals
- How to Set SMART Goals
- Quick Overview of SMART Goals (3:57)
- One Step at a Time: Goal Achieving Cartoon Doodle (2:30)
Mary Baker, M.Ed
Marketing Director & Health Coach
To read more blog posts written by Mary, click here.