Starting S.M.A.R.T. with Goal Setting

behavior change goal setting health habits mindset

Goal setting can be a daunting task for many of us looking to make lifestyle changes. But, is goal setting even necessary? And if it is, how do you go about doing it?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Goal setting can be an important first step for many as they embark on starting new healthy habits. Goals can be set as an individual (like you as the parent), or collaboratively as a family (working together to pinpoint a goal important to the family as a whole). 

One of my favorite sayings is: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Creating new habits typically does not happen without intentionality or the use of our brain’s awesome executive planning power. 

Goal-setting based on our desired new habit(s) helps to move us steadily in the direction of a healthier lifestyle. Old habits are the default - the actions we fall back to easily when tired or stressed. Old habits remain unless we devise a plan to create new ones that better serve our health goals.

I often teach my patients about S.M.A.R.T. goals, which stands for:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

✔️Specific: what do you want to do?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

✔️Measurable: how will you know when you’ve done it?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

✔️Attainable: is it in your power to do?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

✔️Realistic: can you realistically achieve it?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

✔️Timely: when exactly do you want to do it?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Last year, when I began focusing deeply on my own wellness, I knew food journaling (not to be confused with calorie counting) would help increase my awareness of what I was putting in my body. So, I made that into a goal that looked like this:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I will food journal (specific? ✔️, attainable? ✔️) for 5 minutes (realistic? ✔️) before bedtime every day (timely? ✔️, measurable? ✔️).⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

At the end of a week, I reassessed and tweaked the goal. After a few weeks, it felt like second-nature, and I was ready to add the next goal.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

And, that’s how the process works. SMART goal setting offers a thoughtful, methodical, and stepwise approach to moving the lifestyle needle in a healthier direction. It can be applied in absolutely ANY area you’d like to focus on.

It’s important to note that behaviors don’t automatically change just because we set goals. There are a few additional skills that work well with SMART goals to make them more effective. 

Anticipating obstacles and roadblocks helps to problem-solve responses in advance when not in the moment. You can play out scenarios and plan out how you will navigate the obstacle. 

Another useful tool in goal setting is having a system for accountability and self-monitoring, like journaling, a fitness tracking app, or scheduling regular check-ins to discuss your progress with a  friend, family member, health coach or healthcare provider.   ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

What is an area you’d like to focus on this coming week? I challenge you to create a SMART goal for yourself and see the new habits slowly take root!