5 Steps to Successful New Year’s Resolutions: Step 1 SMART Goals

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2014 is just around the corner, and just like every year, health and fitness resolutions are on the top of almost everyone’s list. Unfortunately, without a real plan, many of these resolutions fall by the wayside, only to be picked up again the following year. Not this time. This year you have all of the strategies you need to succeed in this 5 part series. We’ll break down your resolutions into concrete action plans that will be easy to follow, and help you succeed. The steps are:

1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

2. Planning in Reverse

3. Anticipate Obstacles

4. Be Accountable

5. Game Day Prep

Today we’ll be focusing on 1. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

What is a S.M.A.R.T Goal?

Most of us set abstract New Year’s Resolutions. We want to “get fit”, “lose weight”, “be happy”, “make more money”. But this is only just the beginning. SMART goal setting helps us define our goals to make them real in our minds. Instead of  “man I should really get around to that”, you’ll be saying “this is what I want, and here’s how I’m going to get it”. No more wishy-washy goals. This year you’re going to identify exactly what you want to accomplish, the steps you need to get there, and the time it’s going to take you. Sound good? Let’s get started!

Most of us set goals that are outcome-based. We want to reach this ambiguous endpoint sometime in the future. “I want to lose weight”. It’s good to have an outcome goal, because it gives you a direction to go. However, if you leave it at that, you’ll have no way to know if you’ve reached your outcome. That’s why we need SMART goal setting step 1: Be Specific

 S – Specific – Being specific helps you solidify your goal in your mind. Instead of simply hoping that you’ll end up where you want to be, you’ll have an exact definition of where you want to be. Today, my example is going to be “lose weight”. It’s a common one, but often a challenging one. Let’s sit down and look at this one. I want to lose weight. How much? Put a number down. Now ask yourself what that number means to you. How will you feel if you reach that number? How will you feel if you get close to that number, but don’t quite make it? How will you feel if you don’t get anywhere close? For now, pick a number that resonates with you; we will change that number in further steps. For me, my outcome goal this year will be to come back from an injury and run a half marathon.

Next, we need to find a way to see if we’ve actually reached our goal, and help us determine how far we have to go. We can’t just say “well I think I’m close” or “I have no idea if anything’s changing!” This year, your goal will be M – Measurable.

M – Measurable – For me, I want to complete a half marathon. Having completed them in the past, I know that I need to complete a 13.1 mile race. Sticking with the weight loss goal, we need a way to measure it. Being specific and measurable are very similar, and we’ve already defined a number that we want to reach. Other goals, like “being happy” are a bit harder to measure, so this is a time to brainstorm how we can measure our goals. Does being happy mean being a certain number on a scale of 1-10? And if so, what does each number mean? Define your scale. Does being happy mean accomplishing a certain number of tasks per day? Does it mean having your home completely clean? Define your happiness, and set a way to measure it.

Next, we need to start really looking at our goal to see if we can actually accomplish it. We need to see if our goal is Attainable and Realistic. Most people skip these steps and are disappointed when they don’t reach their goals. Here’s how it works:

A – Attainable – Attainable means your goal is something that you can actually work to achieve. For example, I am not a member of a royal family, therefore, becoming a prince is not attainable for me. For those of us with fitness goals, we need to take a close look at what is attainable, and what is not. My goal might be to look like The Rock (it’s not, but bear with me for a second). Being The Rock is not an attainable goal for me – he’s a lot taller, he’s made for putting on muscle. I should not set The Rock as my goal. This goes for women too. Do not pick up your nearest magazine and set your goal to look just like the person on the cover. For one, they’re probably photoshopped. Second, they have very different genetics and environment than you do. Focus on the aspects of your goal that you can actually work to achieve, and stick to them.

R – Realistic – Let’s pretend my goal is to lose 50 lbs. This is an attainable goal. It is something I can work towards and eventually achieve. However, this goal is not realistic for me. Losing that kind of weight for me would not only be extremely challenging, but also potentially dangerous to my health. For me, my goal may be to complete that half marathon in under 1 hour 15 minutes. Sure, it’s attainable, but for me, it’s very unrealistic. Based on my previous times, I can aim for a goal to finish just under 2 hours. This will be very challenging, but most likely doable. For those of you following my weight loss goal, take a look at your number again. Based on previous weight loss attempts, is that realistic? Is it motivating to reach for such a high goal? Is it healthy for you to lose that much weight? You have to be realistic to you. Maybe you want to lose 50 lbs total. That’s great! But if you struggle to lose 5 lbs, this may be unrealistic for you at this point in time. I’m not saying that shouldn’t ever be your goal — I’m saying set your sights on a goal that you are most likely to complete.

To build onto my previous point, let’s talk about the T — Time-Bound.

T – Time Bound – A goal that is time bound has an endpoint. It creates a sense of urgency. Instead of saying “I want to lose 10 lbs….eventually”, you should set a period of time that you want to accomplish your goal by. Having an event or endpoint is very helpful for motivation. Instead of me saying that I want to finish a half marathon, I can set my time to be the Unite Half Marathon on April 13th, 2014. I have 3 and a half months to complete my goal. Great! Now I can start Planning Backwards (see tomorrow’s post). For weight loss, we might pick an event like a wedding or a vacation. Those are great points in time. However, be wary of ambiguous time goals. Don’t say that you’ll reach your goal by summer, because summer lasts 3 whole months. Set your goal for the first day of summer, or the last day of school, or any specific date that is meaningful for you. The other thing to avoid is forgetting our other steps along the way. We need to pick a time that is still realistic. I can set my half marathon goal for January 31st, but I most likely will not reach my goal time, and most likely will hurt myself in the process. Same goes for our weight loss goal.

Here’s where the personal trainer steps in. Most people do not know how long it should take to lose a certain amount of weight. Others have heard what they think should be a healthy rate of weight loss. And still others read magazines about losing insane amounts of weight in a short period of time. Here’s what I say – studies say that losing weight at a rate of 1-2 lbs per week is healthy. Correct, that is a healthy rate of weight loss for most people. However, there are 2 caveats. One, a person who has more weight to lose will lose it faster. If you are exceeding your goal substantially, be aware of how your body feels in the process. If you are losing tons of weight but feel exhausted all the time, that is too fast for you. If you can maintain your health and energy levels, stay on track, but continue monitoring. The second caveat is understanding what goes into losing weight. While losing 1-2 lbs a week might be healthy, it may be unrealistic for your body or lifestyle. Losing 2 lbs a week means having a 1000 calorie deficit every day of the week, for the entire time that you’re trying to lose the weight. It’s very challenging to sustain that kind of change, let alone make it in the first place. I say set your goal a little lower, at about 2 lbs a month, while pushing as hard as you can. If you exceed your goal, AWESOME! If you don’t hit that 5 lbs a month, but still get that 2 lbs a month, you’ve still accomplished your goal.

After taking all those steps, here’s what your goal should look like:

I will complete a 13.1 mile half marathon by April 13, 2014 with a goal finish time of 1:55.

I will lose 10 lbs by the first day of Summer, June 21, 2014 with the primary goal of having more energy.

I will be cooking 3 meals a day, 5 days a week by June 1, 2014.

Write down your goal. Put it in your calendar.

Leave your S.M.A.R.T. Goal in the comments below!

I’ll see you tomorrow for Step 2, Planning in Reverse.

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