As we near the end of January, I’d guess that a lot of us have a goal to set new goals and stick to them throughout the year. I previously shared my intentions for last year, and the fact that I prefer to set goals versus resolutions to form more long-term habits.
Today I want to talk about goals and if they’re SMART. While the analogy is popularly linked to the fitness world (I learned all about the concept while studying for my CPT through NASM), I believe that SMART goals apply to almost anything at all. Once we’re clear with our intentions, the end goal is a lot easier to hit!
If you’re wondering what the acronym SMART means, here’s a break down followed by a few examples that will set you up for success.
And since the New Year is a popular time for a goal like “losing weight”, let’s start by converting that thought into steps that can help you achieve it a lot easier!
Clearly defined so anyone can understand the intended outcome. If we’re talking about losing weight, what is the number that you’re looking for? Example: “I want to lose ten pounds by my summer travels.”
Instead of leaving a general assumption, make your goal measurable. What is your starting point to know how far you have to go? Example: “I want to weigh 150 pounds by July.“
Setting goals that have higher than anticipated expectations won’t encourage you to keep going if they aren’t attainable. Make sure that what you’re aiming for makes sense. Example: “I want to lose ten pounds by the summer.“
Of course, ten pounds is very different from person to person. Is the goal that you’re setting a realistic one? If not, you may be setting yourself up for a letdown in the end and miss that goal all-together. Example: “If I stick to a fitness routine and eat healthy, adequate meals, I will be able to lose ten pounds by the summer.” Non-realistic example: “I want to lose ten pounds by the end of the month.”
What is the timeline for your goal and is it timely? To me, this one goes hand-in-hand with realistic. Example: “I want to lose ten pounds in the next five months, which is by my summer travels in July.”
So, “I want to lose weight” turned into the SMART goal of “I want to weigh 150 pounds by July.” It checks all of the boxes by being specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Seems easy right? It certainly can be, but let’s talk about it further and really get down to it.
Five months is plenty of time for most people to lose ten pounds. These people, of course, have a fitness plan in place, monitor what they’re eating, and stick to it. Depending on what your starting point is, it’s generally considered safe to lose anywhere from 0.5 to 2 pounds per week.
So what if your end goal is to lose forty pounds instead of ten pounds by July? I’m not saying that losing forty pounds isn’t doable, because it totally is. What needs to shift in a goal like this is the timeline to make it attainable and realistic. In order to stay motivated and on track, “I want to lose forty pounds by July” might need to shift to “I want to lose twenty pounds by July” or “I want to lose forty pounds by next January.”
When you’re setting yourself up to actually hit your goal, your drive to succeed stays strong! And if you happen to hit it early, that’s even better.
Okay, so what if your goal has nothing to do with weight loss? Let’s break another type of fitness goal down and change it into a SMART one.
“I want to work on my strength and endurance.”
This is a wonderful goal! Here’s how we make it happen.
“I want to be able to bench press my bodyweight and run a mile without stopping by the end of the year” can get even more specific …
“I want to bench 100 pounds for six reps, and run a mile without stopping at an average of 7 mph by December.”
If you want to have a challenging bench press goal, it’s only recommended to pick your bodyweight if you’re shooting for one rep — once you’re ready. Go down to eighty-five percent of your bodyweight for two to six reps, and down from there for more. The specific number and measurable amount of reps made it attainable and realistic. Including the timeline by the end of the year hit the timetable, which can help create smaller goals along the way.
Here’s another one that relates to my everyday life!
“I want to be able to take the stairs without getting winded.”
That’s actually a goal of mine because using the subway system and living in a forth-story walk-up apartment shows no mercy with stairs. I always get winded! But the problem with it is … any guesses? It’s not a SMART goal. Instead of stating the above, I’m going to change my goal to “I want to condition my body to go up four flights of stairs without getting tired in the next three months.”
In order to hit my goal, I will need to get in a mix of conditioning and strength training that includes doing intervals and taking the stairs as much as possible. Stairs often tire you out quickly because they spike your heart rate, and it can take a minute for your body to catch up as it keeps the oxygen flowing to your muscles. I know I’m not alone in this. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that when people get tired on the stairs varies. Some tire out with a few steps while others can get through several flights.
I usually get pretty tired by the third flight up (especially when I’m carrying Skyler or something heavy up with me), so I have a goal to push that feeling to the forth floor and maybe even condition myself to get all the way up to our apartment without feeling winded at all!
It won’t be easy, but it will take a plan that builds strength in my legs and uses the StairMaster more for my cardio at the gym. Intervals (going in a pattern of slower and faster) can also help with conditioning. Now that I’ve specified my goal and formed a plan, I can hold myself accountable to hit it by my timeline of three months.
Here’s one that isn’t fitness related at all.
“I want to read more books in 2020.”
Given the parameters above, let’s make it a SMART goal! How many books do you want to read? What is attainable and realistic for your life? Are you willing to replace other things like watching television or scrolling your phone to hit it? If not, that’s okay, but those are all factors to consider when choosing what your SMART goal will be.
I would love to read more books in 2020, but I also value my time to unwind with a good Netflix series, so I’m going to change the goal above to “I want to finish one new book per month, totaling twelve in 2020.”
And finally, let’s end with a popular goal that I hear from a lot of people, including myself!
“I need to sleep more.”
Instead of forcing yourself to go to bed earlier a few nights in a row, make it a long time habit by making it a SMART goal. What is your ideal number of hours to function at your best? Mine is around seven hours per night, which I’m currently rarely getting. So, here’s my SMART goal.
“I want to be in the habit of getting 7+ hours of sleep every night by the next three months.”
Now that I have all of the specifics down, I can predict the challenges that arise (late nights out, visitors in town that affect a normal routine, having to get up before the sunrise for work, etc.) and set a plan to overcome them. It might not be easy, but if it’s important enough for me to get 7+ hours of sleep the nights before I have to get up by 4 a.m. for work, then I need to let go of other things like watching television or staying up late to check emails to get to bed by 9 p.m. It’s more than just calculating math, it’s forming habits that stick around long-term!
If you’ve made it this far in the post, then I bet you have a good idea about what makes a SMART goal and how to set them.
I’d love to hear one of your SMART goals in the comments below!
Thank you for tuning in today, and I’ll be back later this week with the latest round of Friday Favorites. Talk soon!
[Photo credit: Jason Roth Photography. Brooklyn/NYC friends — he’s fantastic to work with! Feel free to message me for more information.]