Setting SMART goals

The theory of goal setting suggests that setting goals can enhance a person’s motivation to change. The process of setting goals provides a sense of direction or purpose by narrowing attention towards a certain objective and directing all effort towards achieving that goal. The SMART criteria are a mnemonic used to help set goals and objectives.

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time-bound

Mastering SMART goals is easier then you think. Here are some handy tips on how to set SMART goals.

Specific

Rather than making a more general goal, be specific when you set your goal. Make sure that your goals are clearly outlined, unambiguous, and without any vague or elusive terms. For example, “I want to lose weight” is far too unspecific and should rather be phrased, as “I want to lose 5kg of weight.”

Specific goals will help you to feel more motivated as you will be constantly working towards that specific goal. This gives clarity and focus, and is a hugely important factor in successful goal setting.

Measurable

Concrete criteria for which to measure your progress against are vital. If a goal is not measurable, it is difficult to track progress and improvement. A goal that is measurable allows you to keep track of behavior change and performance, and to see how effective your changes to your diet and lifestyle have been. Without feedback, it is difficult to adjust an eating plan or adapt and change the required behavior.  Feedback also helps to motivate to continue towards reaching for a goal, and help sustain the motivation and commitment to that goal. It is important that feedback not focus solely on shortcomings but be used to develop strategies to change behavior.

It is also important to remember that body weight is not necessarily the best indicator of a healthy body. It may be more encouraging to measure your success with another parameter such as dress size, blood result such as cholesterol or glucose, waist circumference, body fat percentage or BMI. Do you want to be a certain weight, dress size, or maybe you have specific measurements you wish to achieve? Perhaps you want to be able to run a certain distance, or you want to train for a fun run, mini marathon, or even a full marathon. Your health goals may be to improve your blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Whatever your goals are, it is important to have a specific number/figure in mind to keep track of your progress.

Attainable

Is your goal Attainable? Setting goals unrealistic goals is setting yourself up for failure. Goals should neither by out of reach nor insignificant or pointless. A big part of making your goals attainable is to develop the skills, attitudes and abilities and behavioural change. Ask yourself, how can a goal be accomplished? Loosing 10kg in a week is not only close to impossible but also not long-term (or even healthy for that matter). In addition, an unrealistic goal may make you believe that they have no chance of reaching that goal and therefore may not even try to achieve it.

Relevant

Next, ask yourself if your goal is relevant and appropriate. A relevant goal will ask the question “does this seem worthwhile?” If you have already lost weight and reached your target goal to within a healthy BMI, is it really necessary to lose another 10kg? It may be necessary to reframe your goal at this point and rather aim for decreasing your body fat percentage instead, or going to the gym one more time per week.

Time frame

Set a time frame when you make your goal. Ground your goals with a target date to help commit to that deadline. Do you intend to achieve your goal in one week, month, or year?

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