Setting Resolutions with SMART Goals
This January, more is in the air than just the chill of winter: resolutions. Every New Year, millions of people make all kinds of resolutions with the best of intentions, but many abandon them by the end of the first month.
In fact, Strava, an online community for cyclists and runners to analyze performance, track goals, and connect socially with other users, which boasts millions of users globally, has coined January 19th “Quitter’s Day”. So, what is it about New Year’s resolutions that make them so vulnerable to abandonment? And more importantly, how can we become better at making resolutions that stick?
Many resolutions fall short because they lack clarity or are too ambitious. When it comes to health and nutrition, this couldn’t be truer. This time of year, people often set the bar too high, making their short-term goals unachievable. In the beginning of any lifestyle change it’s important for goals to be realistic, flexible, and measurable. For example, someone who doesn’t exercise at all will likely not achieve their goal of exercising every night after work. They’d do better to commit to exercising once or twice a week for a few months at the start and increasing cadence only once they’ve experienced the success of reaching their short-term goal. By committing to 1-2 sessions of physical activity weekly, this person has flexibility on days when other life commitments such as work, and family take precedence.
The same logic applies when setting goals for improved health, such as increasing vegetable intake, getting more exercise, cutting back on empty calorie foods or reducing your intake of added sugar. It’s critical to set yourself up for success by getting to the heart of what you want to achieve (short and long term) and laying out the steps to get there.
Enter: the SMART goal. The SMART goal method helps us avoid these common pitfalls by ensuring the goal is carefully thought through prior to implementation. The SMART in SMART goal stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Let’s walk through the creation of a SMART goal starting with a common resolution: “I want to eat healthier”.
S: Specific– Consider some basic questions to get at the essence of your goal:
- What do you want to achieve?
- What steps must you take?
M: Measurable– Consider how you will quantify your success to better track your progress.
A: Achievable– Reflect if your goal is realistic. Is adding an extra 2 ½ servings of vegetables per day feasible? (Note: USDA recommends 2-3 servings of vegetables per day for women)
R: Relevant– Consider how the goal fits into your bigger picture.
T: Timely– Consider when you want to achieve this goal by. Sustainable diet changes do not happen overnight, but it is important to set time parameters to keep yourself on track.
There you have it! By working through the SMART goal method, you’ll transform either a vague or overly ambitious resolution into a goal that you are more likely to meet. So go make some goals! Soon, Strava will need to re-think “Quitter’s Day”.