With the end of a very stressful year approaching, many of us are looking to the new year with a sense of hope for the future and a chance for a fresh start. The new year is always a time for new year’s resolutions and setting goals. Unfortunately, those resolutions often start out strong, and yet by February, we are right back to our unhealthy ways. This is not surprising, since new year’s resolutions are often things we want to change or think we should change, but they often are not SMART! Goal setting is more complex than simply wanting something to change. The best chance for successfully reaching your goals is to follow the SMART principle:

Specific: Set goals that are specific and can have detailed action steps. Wanting to “lose weight” or “be healthier” is great, but those statements are too general to be effective goals. Instead, focus more specifically on what it means to be healthier. Is that a smaller waist circumference, better blood work numbers, more energy, better sleep? Define what health means to you and focus your goals specifically on achieving that metric.

Measurable: Similar to the last example, your goals should be measurable in some objective way. For example, saying “I will drop two pant sizes” or “I will lower my blood pressure and fasting glucose numbers” clearly defines the metrics you will be tracking. It’s helpful to track multiple metrics, as we often may not see the results we expected, but still are improving our health! For instance, tracking weight is fine, but also track waist circumference and pay attention to how your clothes are fitting. You may see changes there before you see changes on the scale.

Achievable: When considering a goal, you want it to be realistically achievable in the specified time period. This may seem obvious, but we often set overly ambitious goals and set ourselves up for failure from the beginning.

Relevant: Your goals should align with your overall values and lifestyle. Consider what is truly important and WHY you want to make the change. What’s relevant to one person may not be to another. Your goals should be personal to you and what you want to achieve in life.

Time-Bound: Your goals should have a specific time frame attached to them. The time frame should be ambitious enough to keep you motivated and on track, but realistic enough that you can actually achieve your goal. If you’re not sure what is a realistic time frame for making certain health changes, work with a healthcare provider to help guide you.

Setting SMART goals is the first step towards success. All five SMART factors are important, but given the current state of things, achievability and relevance are particularly important heading into 2021. It’s imperative to remember to set goals that are relevant to the current situation. With the amount of uncertainty there still is, it may be more realistic to set shorter-term goals than trying to look at the whole year. For instance, instead of setting an ambitious weight loss goal, a good short-term goal would be to establish a home workout routine that you complete three times per week or complete healthy meal prep every week. These goals will certainly aid in the overall weight loss goal, but may be more relevant and achievable given the current situation.

Remember, setting goals is a great way to help keep you on track, but it’s also important to be flexible and appreciate the small successes along the way. We like to think of working towards a goal as a straight line, but it’s more like a bunch of scribbles in every direction that eventually work towards the end result. Life is incredibly unpredictable, so it’s important not to get discouraged when inevitable barriers come up along the way. Have a plan and always remember your WHY. It will keep you driving forward during the difficult times.

Goal-setting may seem simple, but it can be overwhelming to develop and stick with realistic goals. Whether you know what to do and simply need help with accountability, or if you have no idea where to start, working with someone can help get you on track, keep you on track, and set you on the path to success and better health! If you need a little extra guidance or accountability heading into the new year, don’t hesitate to reach out! We are here to support you and help you Get Healthy and Stay Healthy for Life!

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