Are you setting good goals?

Goals are a great way to improve various aspects of our lives. Some are difficult and some are easy, but they should all challenge us in some way. When making goals, the planning stage is almost as important as the action stage, and is very important in bringing a goal to completion. I want to discuss a goal setting method that will hopefully allow you to set goals and meet them without the disappointment of failure. This method is known at SMART. It is an acronym and each letter stands for an aspect of goal planning and setting. I will discuss it below. 

The first letter is S. This stands for Specific. When making goals, you want to make them as specific or well defined as possible. Use questions like why, where, and what. Don't be afraid to narrow the scope of the goal, if it makes a better defined goal. And example would be the classic New Year's Resolution of, "I want to be healthier." Use the questions to assess what aspects of your life to make healthier, and why you want to do so. A more specific goal would be, "I want to be healthier by increasing my current amount of exercise, limiting eating out, and getting more sleep at night, so I can be more energetic, and positive, in both my personal and professional lives.

The next letter is M. This letter is Measurable. With goal making, the best way to see progress is to measure the value of something, and then later on see how that value increases or decreases. Depending on how specific you are with your goals, you may have included some ways to measure success when coming up with the goal (as a side note, it is not necessary to use each letter of SMART as it appears, and in some cases may be more beneficial to go out of order when creating goals). Going back to our example of becoming healthier by exercising, eating better, and sleeping more, a good way of making it measurable would be, "I want to begin working out 3 times a week to improve my current exercise capacity. I also want to limit my eating out to once every week. Finally I want to add one additional hour of sleep at night." Even if the measures are small, don't be discouraged, you can always set a new goal if you reach current ones.

The A of SMART stands for Achievable or Action. This will be the bulk of your goal, as it will include the steps necessary to complete the goal. Again be as specific as possible. List how you plan to complete the goal taking into account time commitment, financial implications, and social influences. If the goal is to exercise three times a week, include what time during the day you will complete this. It eating out less is the goal, then cite what you will use as a replacement for the change in food choice.  

The next letter is R for Relevance. With R, you want to assess the relevance of the goal for your life. Why is the goal important to you, and how does it make you a better individual, both now and in future versions of yourself. This should be the driving force behind setting the goal. Ultimately, it doesn't have to be complicated, but can be very simple.

Finally, the last letter is T. This stands for Time. Ultimately, making goals is not helpful if you don't have a time period in which you want to complete them in. Using other factors like specificity and action are good guides to figure out a timeline. It's important to make sure the timeline is not too short or too long, and it may also be helpful to create multiple times to meet various stages to the goal (Measurable) depending on the size of the goal in question.  

I hope you found it helpful for your current or future goal setting. Good Luck!

Colin Fulton, BS, PTA

Andrew Nielsen