Achieving something substantial requires setting goals. We even do it naturally without realizing it based on past experiences. Kids, for instance, might start behaving better around the holidays because in the past they were rewarded (or not) based on it. Most children don’t write out how they’re going to do all their chores and homework before playing but it’s still a goal they’ve subconsciously set to achieve presents.

When it comes to health goals, over half of Americans want to live a healthy lifestyle but only a third are at a healthy weight. This is partly because the goal of ‘being healthier’ is a bad goal… by itself. It’s not that the result of being healthier is bad, but that there are no action steps or a plan to follow. It’s such a large goal with so many factors it may seem unachievable or too hard. Instead, break a large goal down into smaller ones like ‘start exercising’ or ‘eat better’.

Now we can start to mold a plan using the S.M.A.R.T. system. It stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. This is a popular system with everyone from athletes to business mentors. The secret to achieving your health goals is making smart goals.

Specific

Make it clear what you’re aiming for.

The more specific, the better. It keeps you focused and helps you see what you’re achieving. Instead of ‘run 2 miles’ try a What?, When?, and Where? approach. I will run 2 miles every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work on the treadmill at the gym.’ Now you’ve got a specific goal.

Measurable

Know when you reach it.

‘Eat better’ can’t be measured but ‘eat 5 servings of vegetables every day’ can. Make sure to include to concrete measuring criteria when you make your goal.

Achievable

Make it something you can do.

Starting a new health program can be exciting and it’s easy to get caught up in all the possibilities. Setting a goal to run a Marathon in a month might be a bit to high at first. It can still be a part of the larger goal but break it down. Maybe start with 5 km run in month. It can be one of the steps on the way to running a marathon. It’s better to start easy and gradually increase the difficulty of your goals.

Realistic

Make it practical for you and your circumstances.

Hitting even a small goal can feel great! But missing a goal can really hinder your motivation to start again. Before you commit to a goal, make sure it’s doable. Don’t make a goal of meal prepping on Saturday if that’s also the day you got 3 children’s activities to get to. It’s okay to be ambitious but be practical.

Timely

Make a time-frame.

If it has no deadline, there’s little motivation to get it completed. Someday never motivated anyone to pass on a free slice of pie or to wake up at 6 am to make it to the gym. A date gives your goal a since of urgency. Just remember the R from above and keep your time-frames practical.

I’ve got SMART goals, now what?

Now’s the time to start! But even with your smarter goals in hand, there are some tricks to help keep you motivated.

Friends or groups significantly increase motivation. Call up a friend who might start with you or join one even if they’re ahead of you. You’ve got your own goals you’re measuring by.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up. Running certainly isn’t for everyone but there are tons of other ways to exercise. Cycling, hiking, sports, and countless more!

Track your progress. We all like to see results so take the M from above and measure your goal on a regular basis. Not just the beginning and end. Make a chart or a graph. There are tons of apps that will even do this for you by counting things like steps, miles, or calories.

These are just a few things to help keep the fires of motivation burning. Try different strategies and see what works for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and you can always contact us for more information. Take things slowly and remember, slip-ups happen. You start again, and you don’t have to throw away all the progress you have made.