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SMART Resolutions: Goal Setting for Success

Jen Sommer-Dirks MS, RDN, CSSD, CEDRD

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s Resolutions. I’m more of the mindset that if you want to change something, you should do it now, not just because it’s the start of a new year. Plus, the majority of New Year’s Resolutions fail by mid year, if not sooner. I actually read a statistic that by the end of January over a third of resolutions have been given up on. Anyone who goes to a gym can witness this trend. The gyms are packed in January to the point that it’s nearly impossible to find a machine, but by March they’ve generally returned to normal levels.

Another potential problem I’ve noticed is that sometimes when we set a future start date for a goal we give ourselves permission to do exactly the opposite until then, such as eating or drinking as much as we want before giving up alcohol or trying to eat healthier. It’s the feast before the famine mindset, and it sets you back even further from your goal.

That being said, there is something about the start of a new year, and in this case decade, that increases motivation. So, I’m not totally pessimistic about resolutions! And if the resolution involves improving one’s health, I’m all for that. Plus, setting goals can be a good way to stay on track and change one’s life for the better.

If you are going to set a New Year’s Resolution, or a health and fitness goal in general, just make sure you set a SMART goal. SMART goals are often used in the business world, but they work for health and fitness related goals as well. You’ll see some variations, but SMART generally stands for specific, measurable, attainable (or achievable), relevant, and time sensitive (or timely).

Specific– A specific goal is easier to stick with than a general one, so instead of saying “I will lose weight” or “I will work out more” make it specific. “I will work out 4 days per week” or “I will keep dessert to one time per week”.

Measurable– How do you know when you met your goal? You’ll need to make sure it’s measurable. You could use body composition measurements as an indicator of staying on track for weight loss, or certain fitness tests (such as a timed mile) could tell you if you’ve improved your fitness level.

Attainable/Achievable– You’ve probably heard the phrase, “reach for the stars”, but if you set your goals too high or too far out you’ll likely get discouraged and give up. I recommend setting mini goals that feel manageable and work you towards the greater goal. For instance, what’s the goal for this week? Or even just today? Don’t focus too far into the future and don’t set unrealistic goals (i.e. losing 10 pounds in a week or running your first marathon next month when you’ve never ran more than a mile in your life).

Relevant– How much do you really care about this goal? Is it relevant to your life? You gotta really want it to stick with it long term! Don’t set a goal you don’t really care about. If it is not relevant to your life or worth the effort to you, you’ll likely get bored with it quickly. And you surely won’t stick with it when the going gets hard, or the donuts are fresh! So make sure it’s a goal you really care about.

Time Sensitive– Put an end date on it. Having a deadline can be motivating (as long as it’s realistic and attainable!). If you didn’t meet your goal by the deadline, re-evaluate the goal and start the SMART goal setting process again.

If you need help managing your performance, health and fitness goals Active Fueling can help! Contact us today to set up an assessment and get on your way to the new and improved you!