Learn The SMART Way to Set Goals
By Beth Jennings, PT, MPT
When chatting with friends or surfing the web this time of year, you can’t miss the reminder that it’s New Year’s resolution season.
Periodic self-assessments and goal-setting aren’t terrible ideas, but the studies are clear. We're pretty lousy at keeping the ones we make at New Year’s.
So if it's mid-January and you've already blown your resolutions or haven’t made any, it's ok. You're not alone. But read on if you’re ready to learn how to create better goals that you CAN achieve any time of year.
Let's start at the beginning, deciding what you want to work towards. What’s your overall objective? Better balance? Less pain?
We at FYZICAL – Forest Grove like to talk about your physical health, but you can set a goal for any aspect of your life, like career goals or financial goals, using the same methods.
Then Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
Your goals are your guideposts to get you to your destination. They should be:
S: Specific. Be clear and specific about what success looks like.
M: Measurable. Add numbers. How much? How many times?
A: Attainable. Be realistic about what can be accomplished.
R: Relevant. Build towards your overall objective.
T: Time-bound. By when?
Think Tortoise, not Hare
Make your goals small and achievable.
Want to lose 100 pounds? Set a goal for losing 5. When you’ve lost 5, then keep repeating or set a different goal until you've achieved that 100.
Want to run a marathon? Set a goal to run 2 miles first. Then 5, then 10. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Harold wants to be in better shape so he can play with his grandkids.
Goal 1: I will do 20 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of resistance training at the gym 3 times/week for the next 4 weeks.
This is a performance-based goal. Notice how Harold spells out what he will do. He can measure it, and it will be clear if he's succeeded. This goal looks like a plan, and that's ok, but consider additional goals based on mastering a skill or an ability.
These goals ask you to do something that you could not do when you started. For Harold:
Goal 2: I will walk 1 mile in under 20 minutes within 4 weeks.
Goal 3: I will stand up from a chair with only light use of my hands within 4 weeks.
Do you see how these goals measure Harold's abilities? Goal 1 only asks him to show up and exercise. This goal is important for establishing a routine, so it’s good to include.
Although showing up at the gym will likely result in fitness gains, Goals 2 and 3 have a sneaky way of reminding you to work hard while he is there. And they will test him at the end of the time period versus every week which will give him some flexibility if he misses a workout.
Track Your Progress
Write down your goals and track details as you are working towards them. Harold might put a checkmark on his calendar that he went to the gym, or he might track the weights and repetitions of his exercises in a logbook.
Journals, phone apps, health trackers? It doesn't matter. Find what works for you and be consistent.
Ways to boost success:
Plan for setbacks. They almost always happen. Just get going again.
Set more mastery-based goals than performance-based ones.
Share your goals with supportive people in your life.
Write down your goals and track some details along the way.
Move with FYZICAL
Our goal at FYZICAL – Forest Grove would be to help you get moving so you can live your best life. And we're pretty good at it. Scroll through some of our old posts in our blog like these to assess what physical goals you may want to set this year.
Or stop by for a physical therapy assessment so we can help you with any physical impairments that are holding you back.
Don’t forget to share any of these blog posts with those who are trying to achieve new goals this year through one of the links at the top of this page.
Beth Jennings, PT, MPT is a freelance writer and a physical therapist.
Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Dickson JM, Moberly NJ, Preece D, Dodd A, Huntley CD. Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(6):3084. Published 2021 Mar 17. doi:10.3390/ijerph18063084