Using the S.M.A.R.T. Method to Reach Your Goal

goalAs we welcomed the start of a New Year on January 1st 2015, many of us made New Year’s resolutions. Most New Year’s resolutions are weight and health related. Perhaps this year your goal is to lose weight. Or you found yourself saying I am going to work out every day starting now! Have you ever asked yourself if your goal is realistic? Are you still working on your New Year’s resolution now?

March is National Nutrition month. What better time to re-evaluate your goal and see if your goal is fit for success? A good way to set a nutrition or wellness goal is using the S.M.A.R.T. goal method. Ask yourself these questions:

Is my goal:
Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Relevant
Time-framed

For a goal to be effective, it must state what you specifically want to accomplish. Instead of saying, “I will exercise more.” A clear and specific goal would state, “I will exercise for 30 minutes on 4 days per week at the gym for the next month.” A strong S.M.A.R.T. goal will define what will be accomplished within a stated time frame.

For a goal to be measurable, the goal will clearly state when the objective is achieved. In the S.M.A.R.T. goal above, the objective is achieved after the individual has exercised for 30 minutes on 4 days out of the week.

An attainable goal is one that is achievable for the goal setter. S.M.A.R.T. goals are focused on long term lifestyle changes, which result from small, gradual behavior changes. If an individual is looking to decrease sodium in their diet, it may not be realistic to say they are going to never eat out again if they are currently eating their lunch from a restaurant every day. A more realistic goal may be to say, “I will pack a lower sodium lunch for work at least 3 out of 5 days per week to avoid eating at a restaurant every day.” And an even more specific way to state the same goal would be to say, “I will pack a sandwich made with whole grain bread, reduced sodium chicken breast, tomato, and lettuce, an apple, and milk at least 3 out of 5 days per week.”

Relevant goals are those that the individual actually wants to achieve. Often people decide they want to do something for the wrong reasons. A New Year’s resolution of losing weight is so common. Ask yourself, did I make this resolution because this is the goal that everyone is making? Do I really want to work on losing weight? Perhaps choosing a specific change in the diet such as eating a salad with dinner every other night is a more relevant goal? The bottom line, the goal needs to be something you want to do.

And the last quality of an effective S.M.A.R.T. goal is having a time-frame or, in other words, a beginning and an ending date. This makes the goal feel time bound. At the end of the stated end date, the individual can feel accomplished and worthy of an award. A month is a wise time frame for most goals since that is the length of time it takes to establish a habit (Pavlina, 2005). Once the month has passed the individual can decide if they would like to re-establish the goal if it was successful or restate the goal if it was not accomplished.

References:
Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics www.eatright.org
Health Guide Info.com http://www.healthguideinfo.com/healthy-eating/p73663/
Livestrong.com http://www.livestrong.com/article/204857-examples-of-smart-goal-setting/
Livestrong.com http://www.livestrong.com/article/210994-5-steps-to-smart-goal-setting/
Pavlina, S. (2005, 14 April). 30 Days to Success. Personal Development for Smart People. Retrieved 4 June, 2010 from http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/04/30-days-to-success/ –

About the Author:
Sheri Berger is a Registered Dietitian having completed her B.S. in Food/Nutrition & Dietetics and a dietetic internship at Loyola University Chicago. Sheri has a diverse professional background that includes hospital and outpatient clinic patient support, preventive wellness programs, corporate wellness services, cardiovascular disease management, and working with seniors. Sheri enjoys engaging her clients in pursuit of their personal wellness goals and leading by example with her healthy lifestyle. She has been certified in adult weight management since 2005. She belongs to the American Dietetic Association, California Dietetic Association, and the San Jose Peninsula District of the CDA. Sheri enjoys spending her free time with her husband and two daughters and she loves to run. This past September, Sheri completed her second half marathon, located in San Francisco.

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