Are you setting S.M.A.R.T. goals?

January 30, 2012|By Robin Rudner, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post to The Baltimore Sun's health blog Picture of Health (baltimoresun.com/pictureofhealth), which is reprinted here. This week, Robin Rudner weighs in on goal-setting.

Jan. 1 has come and gone. If you made a resolution to improve your health and fitness (and you're serious this time), have you evaluated your progress? Do you have a plan? Consider SMART goal setting, an approach often used in corporate training. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (or tied to a deadline). Let's break it down and get to goal setting.

S: The S stands for "specific," but it can also stand for "small." Whenever you are setting a goal, remember that the more specific you are, the more likely you are to achieve your goal.

What exactly are you looking to accomplish? Why do you want to make this change? For example, you may say you are interested in exercising more and being more active, but how are you going to put that into action?

Try setting a more specific exercise goal: "This week, I will exercise on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 30 minutes before work." Questions to ask yourself may include: How can I set myself up for success? Why do I want to exercise more? How often will/can I do it? For how long? What resources do I need? The more specific the goal, the more likely you are to make it happen.

M: The M stands for "measurable." Set a time, distance or other way to track your progress. Establish how you will measure your goal and your progress. Many people find that writing things down helps to put an idea or a goal into action. One way to measure your progress is to track your goal on a calendar. For exercise, you can place an "X" on each day of the week you meet your goal. Then write down in as much detail as you can how much you did and how long it took. From there, you can continue to build on the goal, whether in frequency, duration, intensity or all of the above.

A: The A stands for "attainable." To ensure you are setting a goal that is attainable, it is important to develop the necessary attitude and determination that you can do this. Remember to set yourself up for success. Build an environment around yourself to ensure you meet your goals. How can you prioritize this goal? Is this goal something that can be realized now or in the future?

Remember to start small. If exercise is your goal but you don't already exercise regularly, avoid setting a goal to exercise for 90 minutes every day. Start with what is comfortable for you, whether that's two minutes, five minutes, 15 minutes or 20 minutes. Find what works, and build from there.

R: The R stands for "realistic." You've probably heard the saying, "Shoot for the moon; even if you miss it, you'll land upon the stars." While this may be true, it is also important to put things into perspective. How ready are you to take the necessary steps to achieve this goal? How willing are you to put forth the effort to making it happen? Evaluate your readiness on a scale from 1-10.

It is important to believe that you can do what you set your mind to, but it is also important to assess where you are starting and what is appropriate for you at that time. You can shoot for the moon, but remember to take small steps to get there!

T: The T stands for "timely." How often do you set goals and then, all of a sudden, days, weeks or even months have passed and you have made no progress? Timely or "tied to a deadline" is an important part of the goal-setting process to make sure you're on target. If you don't set a realistic time frame, chances are you won't make much progress. Whether you start with focusing on the day or the week, remember to start small.

Whatever you're hoping to achieve, remember that SMART goal-setting is the way to do it.

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