Starting SMART in 2017: Setting Achievable Goals for a Healthier Lifestyle
From career aspirations and fitness objectives, to home organization and addressing health issues, no matter what you want to accomplish in 2017, setting appropriate and attainable goals can help you get there – especially when it comes to establishing a healthier lifestyle.
The first step to set such goals is to recognize where you already are, what you want to achieve, and to focus on just a few goals. Setting too many or unrealistic expectations potentially creates an environment that sets you up for failure. Instead, use S.M.A.R.T. as a guide and make your goals specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. These S.M.A.R.T. goal-setting techniques are used in many organizations and programs, such as in the Diabetes Prevention Program at HopeHealth, to outline individuals’ objectives.
If you don’t have a specific destination, no amount of planning will get you to your goal. It would be like using a road map to get to Grandma’s and only knowing she lives somewhere in Ohio. By clearly defining what you want to achieve you not only give yourself a stronger chance of getting there, but also provide yourself a way to know you have arrived. Don’t say, “I want to be healthier in 2017,” or, “I want to lose weight,” Instead, define what being healthier means to you and make your goals specific.
Measurable goals make being accountable to yourself easier. Start by writing down the necessary steps that it will take to meet your goals. As you meet these steps, you mentally prove to yourself that you are on the path to attaining your goals and it will help you continue on your journey. If you want to be healthier, how can you measure it? Do you want to add another servings of vegetables to your diet each day? Increase the number of miles you walk or run each week? If you want to lose weight, how much weight? In what time-frame?
Define what you will do to achieve your goal. What is your plan for losing those extra pounds; will you adjust your diet, exercise more, both? Spell it out in detail. This will give you a plan to work from that helps keep you focused.
Setting a goal to run a marathon in six months when you have never put a rubber sole to a sidewalk is unrealistic. Recognize what you can do, what your limitations are, and what you can achieve with some effort. Setting goals too low undermines your efforts; you know when you are lying to yourself about what you can do. Setting goals too high also undermines your efforts; each time you fail to achieve your goal, it can make it that much easier to give up altogether.
Set deadlines for your goals. Deadlines are the mile markers along your journey. They help you recognize your progress and incentivize you to keep going knowing your destination is getting closer and closer.
Being S.M.A.R.T. about your goals will make your decision to make 2017 a healthier year more possible. Examples of S.M.A.R.T. healthier lifestyle goals could include:
• I want to lose 20 pounds by Aug. 1, 2017, by adding a two-mile daily walk to my schedule and swapping a non-starchy vegetable for my usual mashed potatoes and gravy.
• I will reverse my climbing blood glucose levels by halving my added sugar intake each week until eliminated and checking back in with my doctor every three months beginning March 1, 2017.
• I want to increase my fitness levels by getting seven-eight hours of sleep each night and working out for 30 minutes three to four times each week.
• I will take care of my health in 2017 by scheduling appointments for each of my doctors recommending health screenings, including vision and dental, by March 1, 2017, keeping those appointments, and following up with any subsequent recommendations.
Once you have defined your goals, reach out for help and resources available to assist you. Find an accountability partner who can help you and can encourage, motivate, and lift you up in times when it gets hard. Know that it will be a process, and that a healthier lifestyle will not happen instantly. Often times we are looking for quick fixes to issues that have manifested over time. It is important to motivate yourself and not be discouraged by setbacks. This not only applies to health related issues such as heart disease, diabetes, CHF, COPD, alcohol/substance abuse, cancer, but also to anything that you may be struggling and dealing with.
Be smart about setting your goals. Make them personal and start small with short-term goals. Then, as you start to see desired results, redefine and adjust to achieve long-term goals that once seemed unattainable.