Updated: Aug 30
Over the years I've worked as a Wellness & Nutrition Coach, I've had the privilege of witnessing the ebbs and flows of countless health goals – and I've noticed a recurring theme that deserves a deep dive. This series is brought to you by my urge to uncover with you the patterns that have led many of my amazing clients, and even myself, to stumble on our health goals. Keeping it real – we've all been there, chasing after those seemingly unattainable expectations and falling short of our goals. Wondering why this just "never stick" or we just "can't" get on top of our health.
This week we're talking about Specific and Measurable Goals (or, really, lack thereof)!
Let's get Specific (and Measurable)!
People might start working on their health goals for many reasons, usually driven by a desire to enhance their overall well-being and quality of life. Some may seek to improve their physical fitness to boost energy levels, manage weight, or prevent chronic illnesses.
Others might desire to prioritize self-care and reduce stress, aiming to achieve mental and emotional balance. Other external factors such as social pressure, significant life events (sickness, etc), or witnessing the health struggles of loved ones can prompt individuals to embark on a health journey.
Whether it's regaining control over their health, building self-confidence, or simply embracing a healthier lifestyle, the pursuit of health goals empowers individuals to take charge of their own happiness and longevity.
And that's GREAT! Embarking on a journey towards better health is a commendable decision. But to make any of those above desires your main health GOAL, is to inevitably set yourself up for failure because you simply can't measure that.
One of the main reasons for this lack of success is attributed to setting ambiguous health goals. So, today we will explore the importance of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and trackable (SMART) goals in achieving lasting improvements to our health and well-being.
Listen on podbean here!
First.... what might cause you to have a vague goal?:
My hope is that understanding why individuals struggle to define clear and specific objectives for their health and well-being will help YOU to get a better idea of where your goals are coming from. I want you to fully understand the ins-and-outs of goal setting, so you can start to create more sustainable goals and therefore have a better chance of long-term success.
Lack of Awareness: This can be really simple, as in, "you don't know what ya don't know". Or, a lack of awareness can actually be a lot deeper than that. There are actually so many underlying factors that can lead to a lack of awareness when it comes to setting goals!
Misinformation: With the abundance of health and wellness information available, it can be challenging for individuals to discern what is accurate and relevant to their specific needs. This just leads to confusion, and then we don't even know what we want to work on anymore!
Lack of Education: This is the... "you don't know what ya don't know" and that's okay! We have to seek this information out - and you've made it this far, so... kudos to you!
Fear of Commitment: Some people may be hesitant to commit to a plan due to fear of failure or the perception that it will be too challenging. So rather than picking a goal like, "I want to run one more minute 3 days this week" because we're afraid we won't be able to, we just say something like... "I want to get better at running" because it feels more manageable.
Inertia and Habit: People might be comfortable with their current routines and lifestyles, leading to a lack of interest in exploring the benefits of setting specific health goals. You may have set a goal one day to get yourself to run a mile every week (for example). So that's what you do... and it hasn't adapted to your lifestyle at all - leading to a lack of progress or even failure.
Prioritization of Other Obligations: Individuals with busy lifestyles may struggle to allocate time and effort to set specific health goals. They may prioritize work, family, or other responsibilities over their own well-being. Do you know anyone like this? Every time you hang out with them, they make a comment about how they feel out of shape or they "need" to get to the gym more. But they are just "too busy". Well, we've all been there! And guess what - we all get the same amount of hours in a day. It just takes a little change in your priorities to get your schedule to allow time for these health goals.
Lack of Support: Without a supportive environment or a network of like-minded individuals, people may find it challenging to set and pursue their health goals. See Part 2 of Unsuccessful Health Goals for more about this!
Take a minute to pause and reflect. Did any of these stand out to you more than the others? Have you noticed yourself ever falling into one of these categories? If so... great! Now you have a little bit more information to empower yourself with. And, stay tuned for the second half where we will tackle HOW to prevent this in our own lives.
What would a vague health goal sound like?
Setting vague goals such as "I want to be healthier" or "I want to lose weight" can be counterproductive. Without a clear direction, it becomes challenging to stay motivated and measure your progress accurately.
Vague Goal: "I want to be healthier."
Specific Goal: "I will exercise for 30 minutes five days a week."
Vague Goal: "I should eat better."
Specific Goal: "I will incorporate at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruits into my daily meals."
Vague Goal: "I want to drink more water."
Specific Goal: "I will drink at least five glasses of water every day."
Vague Goal: "I'm going to start exercising more."
Specific Goal: "I will attend a yoga class twice a week and go for a 15-minute walk on the other three days."
Vague Goal: "I need to reduce stress."
Specific Goal: "I will practice meditation for 15 minutes every morning."
See the difference? Vague goals lack the focus needed to create actionable steps, leading to frustration and eventually abandoning the pursuit of better health.
Introducing SMART Goals:
SMART goals are a proven framework designed to help individuals create well-defined objectives that are more likely to be achieved. Each element of the SMART acronym serves a specific purpose in shaping goals that are both challenging and attainable. Over time, the SMART criteria have been widely adopted and adapted for various settings beyond the corporate world, including personal development, education, and health and wellness goal-setting.
Specific: A specific goal provides clarity and leaves no room for misinterpretation. It answers the "what," "who," and "why" of the goal. For instance, replacing "I want to be healthier" with "I will exercise for 30 minutes five days a week to improve my cardiovascular health" gives you a clear target.
Measurable: Measuring progress is essential for staying motivated and knowing when you have achieved your goal. Setting measurable objectives enables you to track your improvement and make adjustments if necessary. For instance, "I want to lose weight" becomes "I will lose 10 pounds in the next three months."
Achievable: While it's crucial to challenge yourself, setting unattainable goals will only lead to disappointment. Ensure that your goals are realistic and within your capacity to achieve. For example, if you currently exercise twice a week, setting a goal to exercise seven days a week might not be achievable or sustainable.
Relevant: A relevant goal aligns with your overall health aspirations and is meaningful to you. It should resonate with your values and fit into your lifestyle. Setting relevant goals ensures that you are committed to the process and increases your chances of success. If your goal is to get more active but you prefer yoga over hiking, you aren't going to set a goal to climb your closest mountain (right?!).
Trackable: Some people call this "time-bound" but I prefer "trackable" - without keeping track of something, how will you know if you're making progress? Without any tracking, goals tend to lose priority and momentum. Tracking isn't forever, but it IS really impactful in the short-term. You can use a habit tracker, a calendar, your planner, a note in your phone, your phone calendar - whatever visual system is simplest for you.
Putting SMART Goals into Practice:
Now that we understand the significance of SMART goals, let's put them into practice to achieve success in our health endeavors:
Identify Your Health Priorities: Take the time to reflect on what aspects of your health you want to improve, whether it's fitness, nutrition, stress management, or sleep quality.
Make Your Goals Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve in each area of focus. For instance, "I will eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily" or "I will meditate for 15 minutes every morning."
Measure Your Progress: Track your activities and progress regularly. Use a journal, an app, or any tool that helps you monitor your journey.
Stay Realistic: Set challenging but realistic goals that match your current capabilities and lifestyle.
Set a Tracking System: Establish a simple way to keep track of your progress and accomplishments on a day-to-day basis.
Celebrate Milestones and Adjust as Needed: As you work towards your SMART health goals, celebrate every milestone you achieve along the way. Recognize your efforts and use these successes to fuel your motivation further. Additionally, be open to adjusting your goals if necessary, as circumstances may change or new opportunities arise.Where to look to expand your support system!
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