Setting goals for a healthier you
Healthy change takes commitment and time. But because the benefits of healthy choices don’t happen overnight, sometimes it can be difficult to make smart choices. Setting goals is the most efficient way to reach a healthy lifestyle. And how you frame those goals plays a huge role in the chances of success. Here’s how to make specific, measurable, attainable and forgiving goals to help you get where you want to be:
Specific. Goals should clearly describe what you would like to change and how you’re going to do it. Often our goals are vague and too broad.
- General versus specific: A vague goal won’t supply you with the motivation you need for genuine change. For example, you might say, "I want to get fit." What does "fit" look like? How will you achieve that? A better way to succeed is to be very specific. How often are you going to exercise and for how long? If you need more energy for your fitness goals, how much sleep would you like? What steps will you take to get to bed earlier? There’s a big difference between, "I want to be healthier," and "I want to go for a 15-minute run, 3 times this week, so I will have the energy to play with my kids on the baseball field."
- Write down your "why”: Why do you want to achieve this goal? What is motivating you? Write down what your life will look like when you achieve this goal. This vision is more powerful than a general, vague statement and will be your motivation to keep working toward you goal.
Measurable. How will you know you’re making progress if you don’t track it? The more you measure, the more you’ll encourage yourself to keep going and celebrate when you meet your goal.
- Keep a record: Write down your behavior or track it with an app. These clues will tell you how and when you’re moving toward or away from your goals.
- Maintenance: You might feel overwhelmed if you have many different goals in your life. Instead, think about the changes you’ve made in the past and the healthy habits you’re already maintaining.
- Rewards: When you set measurable goals and track progress, you will know when to reward yourself. People are more likely to succeed when they have small, frequent rewards instead of holding out for one, large prize.
Attainable. Goals should be realistic. Think about your time, finances and abilities, and set small, attainable steps toward the larger goal.
- Short-term: Move in small, consecutive steps. Setting short-term goals as steps toward long-term goals allows for encouragement and rewards along the way.
- Connect motivations: Sometimes a larger goal will seem too large and stressful. Consider connecting two smaller motivations to achieve your larger goals. For example, wanting to be healthy might not be enough motivation. Maybe taking a vacation where you can hike mountain trails will connect two interests and help you get in shape.
Forgiving. Progress does not equal perfection. There will be days when emergencies or distractions occur, and you must spend your time doing other tasks. Make allowances and practice self-compassion.
- Avoid comparison: Everyone is unique and accomplishes change on their own timetable. Working with others can be encouraging and beneficial, but it’s wise to steer clear of comparing yourself to a friend or colleague. Remember, meeting your goals is about creating the life you want to have and not about competing with others.
- Seek help: If you do feel stuck on your goals or discouraged, ask for help. You can avoid mistakes along the way by checking with people who are experienced and have met similar goals.
If you’re ready to get started, the best way to begin is to start saying your goals out loud. Tell people what you’re working toward and how you’ll get there. The more you share your goals and your motivation for a better, healthier life, the more you will believe you can achieve them.
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By Amplified Life Media. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
Stanford University. Achieving your SMART health goal. Accessed: July 15, 2022.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Guide to behavior change. Accessed: July 15, 2022.