You’ve picked a new diet, found a new workout plan, made a list a habits to change, and told yourself, “I’m going to get back in to shape this time!” You stick to your strict regimen, and after a few days or a week, you fall off the wagon and go back to your old ways. Disappointed, you say, “I’ll just try again and start over on Monday.” Thus, the cycle continues. Sound familiar?
Goals are set time and time again to lose weight, gain muscle, feel better, or simply improve overall quality of life. When these goals are created and a course of action is set, do not try to schedule too many changes too quickly. These healthy changes must become lasting, habitual practices in everyday life. To do this: set SMART goals, practice and implement them on a daily basis, and finally, review and modify actions in regards to the progress made.
So what does SMART exactly stand for? The acronym S,M,A,R,T stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or action-oriented), Realistic, and Time-oriented. Pinpointing exactly what must be achieved and developing a plan to get there is a Specific goal. Now, is the goal something that is quantifiable? Being able to Measure progress will make goal setting less difficult than something that cannot be tracked. Achievability means that the goal, although challenging, can be attainted or completed by repetitive and constant action. If the goal is achievable and it is something within one’s control, then it most definitely is Realistic. Finally, the goal must be Time-oriented. How long will this goal take to achieve? Placing a deadline on a goal creates a sense of urgency. Timelines also allow for a review of what has and has not been done.
Once a goal is created, move on to the next phase: taking action every single day. If the goal is something that has many variables such as, “I must lose 20 pounds,” then pick one habit to work on until it becomes part of a daily routine. Instead of starting a “diet,” planning on going to the gym 5 times a week, drinking more water, and eating more vegetables all at once, pick one or two of those changes and work on them until you feel comfortable to add in another. According to Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, it took a minimum of 21 days for his patients to get used to their new look. This quote is often loosely applied to habit formation, in which many teach that it takes 21 days to form or change a habit. Regardless of the tangible days, remember that any goal will always take persistence and consistency to achieve.
Finally, evaluation and adjustment will be the most important aspect in the achievement of your goal. Remember your goal every day. After a week, look back and reflect on the actions that you’ve made. Are you moving forward, backward, or not at all towards your set goal? From here, make the adequate adjustments to get back on track. Do not be discouraged, but keep moving forward and do not quit. This way, you will find what works best for you and you only.
Setting goals are like mini experiments that you run. If the desired results are not achieved, adjustments are made, variables are changed, and you try once again. Stay your course!