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how to make smarter health goals

How to Make SMARTER Health Goals

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We've all set goals or resolutions we didn't stick with, and probably some goals we have. What makes the difference between those goals that didn't make it past Week 1, and the ones that became our new normal? 

In this blog post and this episode of Thyroid-healthy Bites, we're going to explore the methodology behind setting goals that work, using the time-tested framework of SMART goals. I'll explain and guide you through each step so that you can create a health goal or New Year's Resolution you'll actually stick with, in less than 30 minutes!

 

Why Some Health Goals Fail

We all have dreams and desires for our health. To live a long, healthy life. To feel strong. To stay active. To have the vitality to enjoy life. To lose weight. To glow from the inside out. To fit comfortably in our clothes. To avoid further illness. To reduce symptoms. To be there for the people we love.

The list is endless and you can fill in your own blank... 

The first step in attaining any goal or dream is identifying your desire to have it. All of those dreams and desires listed above equate to STEP 1 on the pathway. It's important to have those dreams and desires because that's where it all starts. 

But here's the deal: If we place our wish or desire on the doorstep and leave it there without crossing the threshold of ACTION, the likelihood of us reaching our goal is just about nil.

Sure, put it on your vision board, but know this: Without filling in the details and taking action, your dream is unlikely to become reality.

 

 

Goals fail when they're:

  • Set by someone other than yourself 
  • Unrealistic or unattainable
  • Based on external or superficial motivators
  • Lacking a rewards system
  • Too unbelievable to envision your success
  • Not SPECIFIC

Makes sense, right? But what makes goals succeed?

That's what we're going to explore here. Applying a few simple principles, and a little bit of planning makes all the difference. 

If you're reading this and nodding you're head, feeling ready to take action and make your healing goals a reality, congratulations! You just crossed the threshold from desire to manifesting real change in your life. Let's do this!

I'm going to explain how to get from this "base camp," all the way to the summit. Consider me your sherpa, guiding you along the most likely path of success. 

 

 

Episode Links: 

 

Setting Yourself up for Success

The good news is that this isn't a complicated process. All it takes is a little bit of thought and planning. If you're going to take action, you need to know which steps need to be taken, and in which order. You need to know how you're going to stay accountable, measure success, and reward yourself. You need clarity.

Finally, in this and all things, you need to set yourself up for success by giving yourself the tools you need to succeed. 

If that sounds like a lot, don't fret. All this really equates to is creating a framework. If you've got 15 minutes to spare, a piece of paper, and a writing implement, you're good to go! 

We're going to identify your dream, and then break it down into doable steps with realistic deadlines. This is how we make your dreams come true.

When life gets in the way, and obstacles block your path, we're going to allow for detours and even course corrections. Nothing here is set in stone. Change is fluid, and every hero's journey includes some tests, ordeals, and blockades. Don't worry. When we're done here, you'll have everything you need to face those challenges and move through them with grace and ease.

How are we going to do that? By setting SMARTER goals. 

 

 

What is a SMART Goal?

SMART and better yet, SMARTER goals is an acronym designed to help you identify and achieve goals that actually stick! A SMART goal is:

Specific - What will you do, and how?

Measurable - How will you measure your success?

Attainable - What does the path look like?

Realistic - Can you visualize successful action and the results?

Timely - What is your timeline for achievement?

Because we must account for those inevitable obstacles and changes along the way, SMARTER goals allow you to:

Evaluate - How is it going?

Revise - What changes or adjustments need to be made?

Bonus: Reward - Rewards are now understood as an important part of creating successful habit changes. 

The SMART Goals concept originated in an article by a group of business management consultants in 1981 and has been applied and reapplied countless times since. There's a reason it has stood the test of time and is now taught at so many universities and certification programs (including my training in Functional Medicine Health Coaching), and that's because it WORKS! 

 

 

5 Reasons Why SMARTER Goals are Important:

  1. They bring clarity to vague "shoulds" and wishes, which generates motivation. 
  2. They help you focus on what is most important to you. 
  3. They create a framework of questions to help you think your goals through thoroughly. 
  4. They engage your subconscious mind to help you get where you want to go. 
  5. They incentivize your development of new skills. 

 

5 Benefits of SMARTER Goals:

  1. They decrease anxiety about the changes you're making. 
  2. They increase concentration and focus. 
  3. They foster self-confidence. 
  4. They improve performance. 
  5. They keep you in ACTION. 

 

Examples of Flimsy Goals vs. SMART Goals:

Flimsy Goal: I want to get fit. 

SMART Goal: I want to kickstart my fitness by walking with my dogs, 3 miles a day, 4 times per week, for 2 months, starting June 1, so that I can walk all the way through Disneyland with my granddaughter in August. 

 

Flimsy Goal: I want to lose weight. 

SMART Goal: I want to lose 10 pounds over the next three months by participating in a group weight loss program that will help me track my food intake while increasing my nutrient density, and increase my physical activity to a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days per week. I will use their app to track and garner community support and resources and will begin on January 1. 

 

Flimsy Goal: I want to get more active. 

SMART Goal: I will devote a minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week for the next year so that I can achieve my long-term goal of skiing when I'm 70. This will include 2 pilates workouts and 1 spin bike ride per week, along with at least 2 dog walks. I will garner community support by participating in a group fitness challenge, tracking my progress on my FitBit, and then recording my monthly minutes in a spreadsheet. 

 

Flimsy Goal: I want to eat healthier. 

SMART Goal: I will spend the next 3 months increasing my intake of antioxidants, fiber, and phytonutrients by using the "Eat the Rainbow" model so that I can feel more energized. I will use a weekly tracking sheet to record how many colors of the plant-food rainbow I eat, with a goal of 4 colors at each meal. 

 

The possibilities here are endless, but hopefully, these examples can help you begin to see the fundamental difference between the goals and resolutions that won't last a week, versus the ones that equate to real, lasting, change. 

Ready to take action? Let's go!!!

 

How to Create Your Own SMART(ER) Goal

Woohoo! Now comes the fun part. Grab that piece of paper and let's create your successes map, a.k.a. SMART Goal. Here are the steps:

1. First, generate your goal. 

This is where the magic begins. If you've already got a basic idea of what you want, superb! If not, ask yourself what you most deeply want to achieve or change in regards to your health.

It's best if this is somehow tied to your big WHY, or in other words, what's most important to you on a fundamental level. Choosing something that taps into your deeply held values will increase your likelihood of success versus a goal that is based on more superficial wants like appearance. 

Start with these questions:

  • What do you want to achieve or change?
  • What is your desired outcome?
  • What is your short-term goal?
  • What are your strategies for achieving that goal?

If you've got even a basic idea of those four questions, you're ready to start making your SMART goal!

 

2. Get SPECIFIC

Now, it's time to define the details so you can clearly VISUALIZE your route to the summit of your health goal. 

Answer these questions:

  • WHY is this goal important to me?
  • WHAT will I do to reach this goal?
  • WHO will I rely on for support?
  • WHERE will I take these action steps?
  • WHEN will I start and end this goal?

 

3. Define Your Metrics

How will you measure your success? This is where the rubber meets the road. Take your goal and give it some numbers; for example, instead of "exercise more," you might plan to do pilates 2x/week, spin bike 1-2x/week, and dog walks 1-2x/week. 

Answer these questions:

  • What exactly will you do?
  • How many minutes, hours, or times per day will you do it? 
  • How will you track your progress? A wearable device? A checklist? A spreadsheet?
  • When will you start and finish this goal? (January 1 - March 30, for example)

 

4. Pause for a Reality Check

Now, let's look at how Attainable and Realistic your goal is. How are you feeling about what you've got down so far? If you're trying to shoot the moon, you may want to reevaluate. 

Answer these questions:

  • What are the action steps required to meet my goals so far?
  • Are those action steps realistic for me?
  • Can I visualize myself succeeding at what I've lined out for myself?
  • If not, what can I tweak to make this more realistic?
  • Once I've made tweaks, can I visualize my success?
  • If not, repeat until you've landed upon something that feels attainable and realistic. 

 

5. Create your Timeline

When will you start? When will you stop? How often will you work on this goal per week? How long daily? At what points on the timeline will you increase, decrease or change your routine?

These questions may feel a little repetitive but they're important to the process of creating a clear and specific SMART goal. 

Identifying an endpoint is important so that you know and can celebrate crossing that finish line. You won't get to the summit if you don't know what the summit is. You also need a clearly identified route to get there, support and tools along the way, and a clearly defined reward at the top to look forward to. So, line it out. 

How will you reward yourself at the end? A vacation? A massage? Some time off work to do something you love? Maybe your SMART goal ends with an event, like an adventure trip, or being able to dance at your son's wedding or walk all the way through Disneyland with your granddaughter. The summit is whatever you want it to be-- big, small, or something in between. The most important thing is that it's meaningful to YOU. 

If you're foggy on your timeline, try starting at your desired goal, and work backward from there. If you feel clear on your timeline, fantastic! Write it out and do a little happy dance because you just set yourself up for success by creating a SMART goal! 

 

6. Ready, set, GO! ...Then stumble, and keep going! 

Are you feeling pumped to get started?! I'm excited for you, and I KNOW you got this. You've given yourself the best chance by taking the time to get SMARTER about your goal setting. 

It's natural at this point to have some fear, doubt, or even ambivalence.

Can I really do this? I'm not sure if it's realistic but I'd like to try. I've failed in the past so will I fail again? 

Thoughts like this are 100% NORMAL. That's why we've built in some wiggle room and grace with a SMARTER goal. Don't be afraid to begin and potentially stumble, because if you do, the solution is simple: Evaluate and Revise. 

You are the captain of this ship. Change course if you need to. Get more support if you need it. Notch down on your ambitions or the time commitment if necessary. It's okay if you need to make adjustments. Don't let perfect be the enemy of GOOD. Focus on progress, not perfection, and give yourself a huge pat on the back for having the courage to evaluate and revise, rather than quit. 

You're doing it! Keep going, Thyroid Thriver. And remember: If you're willing to do the work, dreams really do come true! 

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