S.M.A.R.T. Goal Setting for Healthier Lifestyles

by Melanie Thomassian Health Professional

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes in the quest for a healthier lifestyle As a result, however, we can feel that the pursuit of health and well being is an unreachable goal.

So what can we do about it? Simply put - set goals! The S.M.A.R.T. system is a wonderful method for recording our goals and many have found them to be extremely useful in all areas of life.

What are S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

S.M.A.R.T. is an acronym, which can be used to describe the various attributes of any goal we set and helping to ensure maximum chance of success. All goals should be:

S Specific
M Measurable
A Achievable
R Realistic
T Time-bound

How can you translate this tool into everyday life?

1) Specific

Start by writing down a goal, which is clear and specific. Rather than stating, "I want to lose more weight," set a specific goal such as, "I want to lose 2 pounds per week." You should also state how you're going to do it, for example, "I will remove all sugary drinks from my diet." Remember, to make your goals small and simple, with each new goal you will build upon the last one, finally reaching your long-term goals.

2) Measurable

Dr. Irving Gardner said, "You can't make what you can't measure, because you don't know when you've got it made." Are you confused? I think he makes a good point though!

Measuring your progress at defined intervals serves a two-fold purpose a) you'll know for sure if what you're doing is working or not, and you can then modify your goals if need be; b) by setting measurable goals you'll know exactly when you've made progress, boosting your confidence and morale at the same time.

3) Achievable

The goals you set must be attainable if you are to succeed. There's no point saying, "I want to run a marathon next month," if in reality you've never had an interest in running before! By setting goals like this, you are setting yourself up for failure before you even get started. You may have a long-term goal to lose 20 pounds, however, to achieve this you can set a manageable weight loss goal of losing 1-2 pounds each week, gradually working your way closer to the goal of 20 pounds.

4) Relevant

Your goals must be relevant to you - you're the expert on what you want to achieve, therefore choose goals that sit well with your lifestyle. If you barely visit the gym at present there would be no point in saying, "I will attend the gym five times each week." Make your goals appropriate to your lifestyle.

5) Time-specific

When you set goals they must have a time frame attached, otherwise they won't make much sense, and will be too vague and meaningless to be of any use. Being time-specific will also spur you on, as a certain amount of urgency can help to prevent the feeling that it's okay to start and finish them at any time.

Remember, if you're trying to change a habit of a lifetime it may take some time. Allow yourself weeks, rather than days to achieve your goals and try to be patient with yourself.

A final note:

Write your goals down and read them regularly - you may want to display them somewhere visible as a constant reminder

Goals should be small, however, you need to feel a little stretched, so don't make them too easy either!

Try not to set too many goals initially - it can become disheartening, so begin with between 1-3 at the most.

Melanie Thomassian
Meet Our Writer
Melanie Thomassian

Melanie is a dietitian and writer. She wrote for HeatlhCentral as a health professional for Food & Nutrition and Heart Health.