What do you hope to accomplish in the next six months? Is this the year you are finally going to lose weight? Is now the right time to ditch a job you hate and find your dream job? Whatever your goal, NOW is the only time you will ever have to determine what’s most important to you and put a plan into action to accomplish your goals.
Be SMART About Setting Goals
The example given below is designed to make you think more seriously about setting goals. In order to reach any goal, whether it is related to business, family, health, fitness, education, or something else entirely, you need to make sure you do five things.
First, make your goals as specific as possible. Make sure the goals are measurable, so you know when you have reached them and can move on to others. Keep them action-oriented, so you have a plan of attack to make each goal become reality. Keep them realistic so you don’t get discouraged and lose your motivation. Finally, give them a time stamp so that you commit to action and follow through.
If one of your goals is to lose ten pounds, fine. That’s certainly a specific and measurable goal. But let’s look at why that is your goal. Is someone telling you to lose that weight? Have you chosen that number because it’s what you weighed in college? Or does some medical chart tell you your BMI is too high?
What if, instead, you gained 10 pounds of muscle mass and lost 10 pounds of fat, reducing your percentage of body fat to 18% but without a net loss of a single pound? If you had more energy, more stamina, felt and looked better in your clothes, and could wear that strapless dress you’ve been dying to wear, would THAT be more appealing to you than “losing 10 pounds?”
In other words, determine what your ULTIMATE goal is, as well as the reasons behind it. Perhaps it’s not so much a specific number, but rather the energy and good feeling that would come from doing whatever you’d need to do in order to lose weight — make healthier food choices; get good sleep; move more; make a weekly commitment to a friend.
You may discover that your goal is completely different from what it started out to be.
If your goal is to be healthy, it will be difficult to assess when you have actually reached that goal.
Your concept of health probably differs greatly from everyone else’s. If “health” to you means never getting the sniffles, you may need to try anything ranging from eating a few oranges a day to giving up gluten. If “health” means being able to climb a hard route without any injuries or enjoy a tough hike without knee problems, that will require a different sort of plan.
Someone who wants to complete a triathlon will have a very different training program from someone wanting to complete an Ironman in under 8 hours.
The point of setting “measurable” goals is making sure that you can tell on a regular basis whether you are making progress so you can adjust what you are doing.
A goal of reaching 15% body fat by losing a pound a week and gaining 1 pound of muscle a month is a specific and measurable goal, but how are you going to reach it?
That’s where you sit down and plan your ACTIONS– what sort of cardiovascular workout do you need to do? How often? What changes do you need to make in your diet? What sort of strength training program would help you gain lean muscle?
Oftentimes, in this step, you will find it helpful to enlist the help of an expert–a fitness consultant, doctor, nutritionist, or trusted friend–who can provide you with suggestions and advice that will motivate and educate you.
Keep your goals within the realm of possibility, or you will get discouraged. Climbing Mt. Rainier after only training for a month is not realistic. Hiking five miles is. Losing ten pounds in a month might be realistic if you have a ton of weight to lose, whereas, for someone else, it could actually be dangerous.
And finally, assign a deadline to your goal. Write them down on paper. Put them on your calendar and remind yourself daily of your commitment, your goals, and your actions. Without this last piece, your goals will only be daydreams, “someday” wishes. Commit to making SMART goals and start working toward them today.