A friend of mine started using one of those couch-to-5K iPhone apps a few weeks ago. The program helped him with goal setting in a way that made him feel he was making significant progress – and he was. He was running farther and longer than he had run in some time. Then he was blessed with a new baby. Apparently screaming infants, no sleep, and dirty diapers erode into a man’s will power (the diapers have the largest impact – trust me). He had fallen off the wagon and stopped running. He had, of course, many legitimate reasons not to run. Isn’t it interesting how we suddenly have to catch up on all those errands and chores when the alternative is exercise! We always have reasons but when it comes down to it, we are only successful in the areas of life that we are willing to be unreasonable. He had his iPhone app to help him set goals and he eventually got back to running, but many people fail in their committments because they do not set goals effectively.
It was about the same time that my wife showed me a page out her life coaching book (She’s in the process of taking a life coaching course – She’s going to be awesome at this). She was learning how to help clients set goals in a more productive way. The page used a mnemonic that Paul J. Meyer describes in a book called Attitude is Everything. It is called the SMART criteria for goal setting and I think it is very useful for getting started with weight loss or for getting over pleateaus. I started thinking about how someone should approach goal-setting in a way that is productive both in life and with weight loss. In a prior post called Falling Off The Wagon, I tried to give you a positive mindset to help you stick to your committments. I thought it would be helpful to create a framework for establishing how you should go about setting goals and committments in the first place. I think following the SMART mnemonic is a great way to go about this.
You have to be specific about what the goal is. State the goal in a clear and unambiguous fashion. A specific goal will usually answer the five “W” questions:
- What: What do I want to accomplish?
- Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
- Who: Who is involved?
- Where: Identify a location.
- Which: Identify requirements and constraints.
If a goal is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether you are making progress. A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
- How much?
- How many?
- How will I know when it is accomplished?
Attainable doesn’t mean easy. Your goals should stretch you, just not too much and not too fast. The goals should be neither out of reach nor below standard. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you will begin to find ways to make them a reality. You will develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them. An attainable goal will cause you to identify previously overlooked opportunities. An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
- How: How can the goal be accomplished?
The fourth term stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. If it doesn’t matter, why bother? You may set a goal to collect a pound of pocket lint. This is specific, measurable, attainable, but it is not important (my apologies to the Associated Pocket Lint Collectors Union). Although, if you can find an important reason why a collecting a pound of pocket lint is important, please post it in the comments at the end. The relevance is what pushes you forward. A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
- Does this seem worthwhile?
- Is this the right time?
- Does this match our other efforts/needs?
- Are you the right person?
The fifth term stresses the importance of a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps you focus completion of the goal. This part of the S.M.A.R.T. goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency. A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
- What can I do 6 months from now?
- What can I do 6 weeks from now?
- What can I do today?
My friends app did all of the above and is why it was successful. If you start off with goals that are too big, too far off, or unmeasurable you are dooming yourself before you even begin. Being that my goal is to educate and motivate you to lose weight I will help you get started by giving you your first SMART goal:
Exercise 40 minutes per day, 4 days per week, for the next 4 weeks. Mark the days on your calendar so you can see your accomplishment.
This is a specific, measurable, attainable, very relevant, and time-bound goal. Now all you have to do is get started. So why are you still reading this? Get off your chair and get moving, you have a goal to reach! If you don’t know what exercisde to do, head over to my page on no excuse workouts, pick one and get going!