S.M.A.R.T. Goal MakingMarch 6, 2017 • By John Olsen
January has come to a close and, despite our best intentions, our resolutions have as well. Why do resolutions always seem to fail? More than likely, the goals we make are too lofty, not relevant to
our life’s objectives, or are too difficult to track. To set yourself up for success, you must make a SMART goal. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Taking the time to think through a goal and write it down may seem unnecessary, but if we can write a SMART goal we are significantly more likely to follow through.
Let’s take a look at the intricacies of the SMART goal acronym.
Specific refers to creating a goal that is well defined and narrow in focus. Specific brings us from a goal of “I want to lose weight” to “I want to lose 10 pounds.”
This brings us to our next requirement, which is to make sure the goal is measurable. In order to judge our progress, the goal needs to have some amount of traceability. In the initial example, it is easy to see that the goal is measurable, as pounds are easily tracked. If your goal is to be more successful at work, finding a way to make that measurable requires greater creativity. Progress could be tracked in terms of increased revenue, number or clients, articles written, or any number of other markers.
Ensuring that goals are attainable is another key factor in success. Making a goal that is too lofty or rushed is bound to fail. Making sure a goal is attainable also means ensuring there are direct steps that can be made toward a goal. For example, a goal that states “I want my boss to praise my work” is an external goal, and the quality of your work cannot guarantee your boss will give praise. However, modifying that goal to “I will ask my boss for feedback when I am proud of my work” puts the ball back in your court.
Forming goals that are relevant to your life’s objectives and your short and long-term plans is important. If a goal does not fit in with your broader needs it is unlikely to be a priority.
Setting target dates along the way for your goals, as well as a date the goal will be completed, makes it time-based. Breaking a goal up into smaller parts with due-dates keeps motivation high and makes time management easier.
I recommend writing out how your goal satisfies each of these requirements. Begin with your broad goal, such as “I want to lose weight,” and then go down the list to make it into a SMART goal. Here are some examples:
Broad Goal: I want to get rid of back pain.
Specific: I will reduce the pain in my lumbar spine from a pain number 6 to a pain number 2.
Measurable: I will be able to stand comfortably for 2 hours.
Attainable: I will call to schedule an appointment with my chiropractor within a week. I will then stick to the treatment plan of visits and home exercises prescribed by the chiropractor.
Relevant: Controlling my back pain will allow me to keep up with my grandchildren.
Time-Based: I will follow the treatment plan provided by my chiropractor for two months, after which I will reassess my level of pain when standing for 2 hours.
SMART Goal: I will follow the treatment plan prescribed by my chiropractor for two months, which will reduce my lumbar spine pain enough for me to stand comfortably for 2 hours so I may play with my grandchildren.
Broad Goal: I want to reduce my Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) symptoms by eating healthy.
Specific: I will eat 25 grams of inflammation-reducing fiber every day by increasing my whole grain, legume, and vegetable intake.
Measurable: Using an online nutrient tracker, I will input all of the foods I eat in a day to ensure I consume 25 grams of fiber.
Attainable: I will keep my refrigerator and pantry stocked with oats, legumes, broccoli, and other high-fiber foods. I will prepare these foods in advance so they are the easiest for me to grab when I am hungry.
Relevant: Reducing my symptoms of RA through eating anti-inflammatory foods will make my day-to-day movements more comfortable.
Time-Based: I will eat 25 grams of fiber daily for a month, at which point I will make another goal to get myself closer to following an anti-inflammatory diet.
SMART Goal: I will eat 25 grams of fiber per day for one month by increasing my whole-grain, legume, and vegetable intake. I will know if I am staying on track with my goal by entering my meals into a nutrient tracker and will encourage my success by keeping my house stocked with high-fiber foods that are ready to eat. Eating 25 grams of fiber a day will allow me to move with greater ease throughout my day as an anti-inflammatory diet has been shown to decrease RA related pain.
If you are looking to make effective goals, look to the SMART goal standard. Regardless of the area of your life, you are looking to improve – health, career, finance, etc… – a SMART goal will help you to succeed. Give it a try; maybe those resolutions still have a chance.