How many times have you set a new year’s resolution or told yourself you were going to get in shape only to forget, give-up on, or never even attempt it in the first place? When it comes to success, don’t underestimate the importance of the simple, yet valuable tool, of goal setting. One way to stick with and accomplish what you desire is by creating SMART(ER) goals.
Specific- When choosing a goal, be specific. “I will run a marathon” is not as specific as finding a marathon in your area, marking the date on the calendar and stating “I will run a marathon on Oct. 12” This gives you a specific distance, time and event which in turn can help keep you on target.
Measurable- You should have a way of measuring your success along the way. This can help provide encouragement and motivation or tell you if you need to reassess and approach things from a different direction. With the help of a professional you can develop a training plan that incorporates fitness assessments, measurements or other forms of evaluation as necessary.
Attainable- A goal should be hard enough that you have to work for it, yet not so hard that it ensures failure or wanting to give up. You wouldn’t want to set a goal of bench pressing 300 lbs. in 6 weeks when at the time you can only press 50 lbs. Instead, you could set a goal of participating in a full body resistance training program 3 times a week.
Realistic- If you are a mother of 3 who works full-time, you probably don’t want to set a goal of completing a full distance IronMan triathlon. A more realistic goal for this time in your life would be to train for a shorter, olympic distance triathlon. It is more likely that you would not only have the time, but also the energy required for success and a positive experience.
Timely- By placing a timeline on your goal, you create a sense of urgency to stick to it. It may take a lot longer to simply ‘lose 10 pounds’ than to ‘lose 10 pounds in 6 weeks.’ By putting a 6 week deadline on your goal, you will stay motivated and be more likely to reach success. You don’t want to give yourself too much time to reach your goal, but you also don’t want to give yourself too little. The first can lead to distraction or procrastination while the second may lead to injuries, failure and simply giving up.
Evaluate- Using the above 5 guidelines, evaluate your success as you go. Are you 6 weeks into your plan and not quite where you were hoping to be? Maybe you need to double check that your timeline is realistic and attainable or maybe you need to push yourself a little harder. Are you feeling burnt out or ready to quit? It may help to set some short-term goals that will give you a sense of accomplishment and encouragement as you work toward your ultimate goal.
Re-assess- Once you’ve evaluated where you are at and how things are going, continue to re-assess your progress as time goes on. Are the changes that you’ve made working? Are you still enjoying what you’re doing? Do you need to add to the goal to make it a bit more challenging? Goals are specific yet mold-able. Life happens and our bodies respond in their own unique ways to different training protocols. It is okay to make changes so that you continue to excel throughout the process.
Write your goal down and leave it in a place that you’ll see often. The bathroom mirror, car, refrigerator or computer screen are all good options. Frequent reminders throughout the day encourage you to not only stay committed to your goal, but to also make other decisions that will support your success.
Last but not least, share your goal with someone else. Not only does verbalizing help to make things feel more ‘official’ but it can also provide you with accountability and encouragement as you go. Who knows, you might just inspire that person to set their own goals along the way.