|*Photo credit: blog.linkedin.com|
All those grandiose goals—lose 30 pounds, cook all of my own healthy meals, etc.—may sound good after some champagne on New Year's Eve, but are they DOABLE?
Yes and no.
We’ve all been determined to improve ourselves in some way, but without setting specific, measureable, attainable, realistic, and timely (or S.M.A.R.T.) goals, there’s often not enough planning to make them stick.
The idea of SMART goals has been around for nearly 35 years. Isn’t time that we made use of them?
An example of a non-SMART goal is:
I will lose 30 pounds.
An example of this same goal transformed into a SMART goal is:
I will lose 1 pound per week for 30 weeks by cutting out 500 calories per day from my diet (3,500 calories=1 pound, 7 days/week x 500 calories=3,500). I will figure out how to do this by using an online calculator to figure out how many calories I need per day to maintain my weight and will then subtract 500 calories from that to come up with my total daily calories. I will make sure that I’m eating 500 calories less per day by using MyFitnessPal to track my calorie intake.
“I will lose 1 pound per week for 30 weeks by cutting out 500 calories per day from my diet.”
“…using an online calculator to figure out how many calories I need per day to maintain my weight and will then subtract 500 calories from that to come up with my total daily calories. I will make sure that I’m eating 500 calories less per day by using MyFitnessPal* to track my calorie intake.”
Except for those whose weight maintenance calorie level is very low (e.g. those of us who are vertically-challenged), most people can cut 500 calories per day.
A healthy level of weight loss for most people is 1-2 pounds per week. More than that is not only not realistic, but can also set you up for a weight yo-yo where you gain back everything that you lose and more.
“…1 pound per week for 30 weeks”
In addition to SMART goals, I find it useful to take lessons from motivational interviewing, health coaching, and the Transtheoretical Model and plan for the following:
- How will you stay accountable?
o Solution: enlist a partner in your goal—either someone who also needs accountability in achieving their own goal or someone who cares about you and wants you to succeed.
- Do you need help to achieve your goal? Identify the help you need and make a connection.
o If you want to quit smoking, you may need help from a physician to get nicotine replacement and they can refer you to a support group of others trying to quit smoking.
o If you want to eat healthier or exercise, you may benefit from the help of a wellness coach, personal trainer, or by taking healthy cooking classes.
- What will keep you motivated?
o Solution: create a list of the reasons you want to achieve your goal and look at it when tempted to go off-track, or post an inspirational picture or phrase where you’ll see it regularly.
- Envision your life if you are successful at your goal. What will you gain and what will you lose?
- Identify the things most likely to get you off-track. Plan ahead how you will deal with them.
o Solution(s): if you snack on junk food, get all of the junk food out of the house. If exercise is part of your goal, get the workout gear for your next workout together immediately after you finish working out and put it in a place that you can’t miss it. This may help motivate you to exercise when your activation energy is low.
- What will you do if you get “off track”?
o Create a plan to get back “on track” before you even begin. Modify the plan, if needed, after your first bump in the road.
- What if you discover that your goal is too difficult (e.g. 500 calories per day is too difficult to cut out)? Make a “plan B.”
o Example: Instead of cutting 500 calories from your diet, try cutting out 300 calories from your diet and walking briskly for 30 minutes (burns 150-200 calories) to add up to the 500 calories. Alternatively, just plan to cut fewer calories and stick with your plan longer than 30 weeks.
- If your goal takes time, how will you make time?
o We’re all busy, but I believe that whenever we want something bad enough, we can make time to achieve our goals. Stop making excuses and make a plan.
This post highlights the most common mistakes and frustration-prevention points I see with people trying to make positive changes. The above goal setting and achieving tips are not meant to be encyclopedic. The example solutions are meant only to illustrate the point, but many other solutions may be a better fit for you. These tips offer a place to start.
Now, go get started!
*There are many other calorie and fitness trackers available for free out there. This post is not an endorsement of MyFitnessPal.