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A Guide to Goal Setting

Handwritten definition for SMART goal setting is written on a notebook page beside eyeglasses and colorful sticky notes on desk.

Goal setting is a powerful tool that can help you plan and achieve your goals. It can give you long-term direction and vision, and short-term motivation. Although goals can be set at any point in time, many individuals consider the New Year a good time to reflect on the past year and identify new resolutions for the upcoming one. Since the New Year has just started, this is the perfect opportunity to establish some fresh goals.

The first step in setting personal goals is to identify a broad or long-term goal, such as wanting to become a doctor, learn a language fluently, or save a certain amount of money. Then, you break this down into smaller, short-term goals that you must first accomplish in order to achieve your overall goal. These goals should be SMART, which is a useful mnemonic for developing goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

SMART goals were first developed and coined by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham in 1981 in relation to writing management goals, but the concept is applicable to creating any type of goal. Consider these elements as you write down your goals.

Specific: Your goal should be clear and defined. What exactly do you want to accomplish and in what timeframe? If your goal is to get more sleep or lose weight, be specific about how much sleep you want to get each night or how much weight you wish to lose. For example, you could say, “I will lose 10 pounds in 2 months by lifting weights for 40 minutes five days a week.” Being precise will enhance the effectiveness of your goal.

Measurable: Your goal should be quantifiable or trackable. Fitness and weight loss goals are certainly easier to measure by determining pounds or inches lost, but it may be tricky to find metrics that monitor progress for other goals. You need to provide specific benchmarks such as taking daily progress pictures, writing down your progress in a journal, or employing the use of an app designed to track certain behaviors such as the Habit Tracker or Done app.

Achievable: You want to gauge whether your goal is reasonable and attainable in the specific amount of time allotted. Consider what tools/skills are required and what obstacles you may encounter. This should not dissuade you from setting big goals for yourself, however being overzealous or unrealistic can lead you down a road of frustration and potentially disappointment. To avoid getting discouraged, keep goals small and incremental.

Relevant: Ensure the goal really matters to you. Reflect on whether you are doing it for the right reasons. What are your motives? If your goal is motivated by spite or self-loathing, your motivation will most likely burn out rather quickly. Additionally, ask yourself how it aligns with your broader goals and why it is important to you.

Time-bound: Your goals should have a clearly defined timeline and/or deadline. The timeframe for accomplishing your goal should be realistic. If you have several goals at once, prioritize them. This will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Lastly, when you achieve a goal, take time to celebrate your accomplishment. Reflect on your experience and use what you learned to review and adjust your other goals as you see fit.

Learn more about Wellness Workdays and our wellness program offerings by downloading our brochure.

Written By: Tyler Reininga, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern



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