Starting 2021 S.M.A.R.T. By Jamie Wright
Hands up New Year, new you crew!
And, with recent announcements, how many of you have ended up postponing the new year's resolution due to changes in circumstances?
We've all been guilty of setting ourselves horrendously unrealistic goals at the start of every year, particularly when it comes to achieving a healthy lifestyle. Most of our health and fitness ambitions end up crumbling into nothing within weeks and eventually fade into obscurity by February.
This has become ever more apparent in the present climate, given that our day-to-day life changes virtually every day at this point.
Does this mean we are confined to a state of limbo before we can begin to move forward with our goals and life? Certainly not.
Goal setting is a wonderful tool... when used correctly. In this article we're going to cover just how great the "right" goals can be for you and your health, as well as discussing the most effective way of setting goals; the S.M.A.R.T way!
Goal setting and success
What exactly is a "goal"? A goal is essentially a mental representation of an outcome we desire. A projected result in line with what we'd like to achieve.
Goal setting is our ability to identify the process we need to follow to achieve a specific goal.
Simply put, a goal is the destination; goal setting is our map to get there!
Our new year's resolution is almost always doomed to fail because we set ourselves an unrealistic "destination" and or we fail to plan how we're going to get there.
The average person's new year's resolution would be akin to a first-time exerciser climbing Mount Everest... walking backwards... blindfolded. Not a very realistic goal and certainly not achievable if that's how the plan to reach the top.
Numerous studies have shown that intention to change does not always lead to the desired results.
This is also referred to as the "intention-behaviour" gap; we know we want to achieve something, yet the goal itself, or how we achieve it, is not realistic.
The question therefore is "are we practicing smart goal setting?" or, better yet, "are we using S.M.A.R.T goals?
The S.M.A.R.T principle is a way for us to set smart goals. The principle itself involves setting goals based on the following considerations;
A smart goal is one which is;
- S - Specific
- M - Measurable
- A - Attainable
- R - Realistic
- T - Time-Bound
This principle can span across all aspects of your life; career goals, fitness goals, personal goals, financial goals, weight loss goal are just a few examples. The S.M.A.R.T principle is equally as useful when considering a long-term goal or if your focus is more so on short term goals.
"So, how do I use the S.M.A.R.T principle in practice to determine set goals?"
Let's address it point by point.
Is your goal specific? The first step in developing an attainable goal is to describe exactly what that new goal will be. Instead of a generic statement such as "I will eat more vegetables and fruits", being more specific e.g. "I will fill 2/3 of my plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruits at each meal" will allow you to create clear goals.
Is your goal measurable? Measuring your progress and holding yourself accountable along the way will help keep you on track. Journalling is a great way to monitor your progress. Monitoring doesn't always have to be quantitative either and spreadsheets don't always paint the whole picture; journalling to reflect on how we feel, things we've noticed, what you've learned and other measures of personal growth are just as valuable.
If you want to be more active, you might set out to walk for at least a half hour, five days a week, and write down your activity each day to track your progress. If you want to increase your daily steps, a simple step counter can tell you how you are doing.
Is your goal attainable/ achievable? Make sure you have the tools, information and resources you need to reach your goal. If a gym membership is out of your budget (or they're closed), a walking program like the one described above may be a better option for a fitness goal.
Is your goal realistic? Setting a goal that is realistic can help avoid setbacks and increase the likelihood of success. For example, if you know you hate to run, training for a marathon may not be realistic.
Aim for something challenging but not impossible. You can always adjust the goal later if it's too easy. Long-term behavior change is more likely if you start with a smaller goal and build from it. A big goal is great, and something to strive toward, but it can be intimidating and derail your lifestyle change.
Is your goal time-bound? Goals without starting points and deadlines are easier to put off. Choose when you are going to begin your new behaviour or activity and how often you are going to do it. If you want to improve your diet, a goal could be to substitute plant-based protein for meat three meals a week beginning this Sunday.
S.M.A.R.T goals in practice; what the science says;
S.M.A.R.T goals sound... pretty smart. But do they actually work?
Given we're all about health here at FoodCircleSupermarket (at an affordable price), we'll stick to goals centred around exercise, weight management and healthy eating / healthy lifestyle.
We all feel like a bit of extra movement now and again would be mightily good for us, yet many of us fail to get in the recommend amount of exercise.
Harking back to what we've quote previously, this is usually due to unrealistic expectations / goals and lack of understanding as to how we'd make them practically achievable.
Whilst weight management is a complex issue, and one that is sure to spark disagreements, I believe most people would feel more comfortable and confident in their health if they were able to sustain healthy weight management behaviours.
A healthy lifestyle is multifactorial; it's not just about healthy eating and exercise, it's also how you take care of your mind, what your social circle looks like and what your career / purpose in life is.
When applied, S.M.A.R.T principles have been an excellent tool to empower people to up their exercise and focus more on healthy eating. Not only that, but the principles may also assist people in adhering to goals / behaviours which could protect their mental health.
It’s a difficult time for many of us. Last year was one of the hardest we’ll like ever have and the beginning of this year is looking to be a challenge too.
That doesn’t mean we have to wait for “normal” to get back on with our lives; you’re capable of moving forward today, if you set yourself the right goals to focus on.
Use the S.M.A.R.T principles to rejig your “New Year, new you” resolution; make it work for you, and don’t let COVID take any more time away from you. We are all still capable of moving forward and we want our community to help each other push onward.