As we ring in the New Year, many will resolve to eat healthier, lose weight, and exercise more frequently. And unfortunately, many of these goal-setters fall off the wagon after the first several weeks. Want to stay on the road to success? Try framing your aspirations with a SMART goal. Learn how right here!
What is a SMART goal?
When setting a goal, we often begin with the end in mind, which makes perfect sense. We know what we want… but how do we achieve it? A SMART goal describes the “how.” It is a structured statement that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Let’s break it down with an example.
Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to “be healthier.” That’s definitely a worthwhile pursuit! You are more likely to adhere to that resolution if you create several smaller goals that will act almost as a roadmap, telling you exactly how to be healthier.
- Specific: What does “being healthier” actually mean to you? Maybe you want to eat more healthy foods. What foods are healthy? Alternatively, what foods are unhealthy that should perhaps be limited? You decide to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables.
- Measurable: “Eating more fruits and vegetables” is a vague statement. How much is “more?” Think about how many you eat now. If you average one fruit and one vegetable each day, let’s go up from there.
- Achievable: Your first instinct may be to buy one of every fruit and vegetable at the grocery store and plan to eat them all in three days, but this is likely not realistic. Think about it this way: the more goals you achieve, the more goals you set, and the more you find yourself moving toward conquering that overarching goal. What can you realistically achieve? Start by eating one extra fruit and vegetable.
- Relevant: How important is this goal to you? The more invested you are, the more likely you are to follow through with the actions necessary to achieve the goal. Be honest with yourself and follow what interests you.
- Time-bound: How often do you plan to eat extra servings of fruits and vegetables? Think about what is realistic. Perhaps five days a week (let’s skip the weekend for now) is doable. Rather than thinking about your goal in terms of days, what about considering the meals themselves? Eat an extra fruit and vegetable each day for lunch. Choose whatever works for you.
We have successfully re-framed a solid, yet vague New Year’s resolution as a SMART goal. Instead of “being healthier,” we will eat one additional fruit and vegetable for lunch on weekdays. Now we know exactly what to do, how often, and can easily measure our success.
Once you are reliably eating extra fruits and vegetables, set a new goal. Perhaps you would like to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, exercise regularly, or find healthier ways to cope with stress. Whatever you decide to pursue, make it a SMART goal.
Sara Glanz, MS, RD, LD, CNSC worked as a traveling dietitian for Dietitians On Demand for two years before joining the team as the corporate dietitian. In this role, she has championed the continuing education program to empower dietitians everywhere to achieve their professional goals.
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