Specific: A specific goal usually answers the 5 W’s: Who, What, Why, When and Where. A specific goal has a much greater chance of being accomplished than a general goal.
Measurable: To determine if your goal is measurable, ask yourself: How will I know when it is accomplished?
Attainable: Your goals should be neither out of reach or easy to accomplish because you do not want them to be meaningless. They should be realistic and attainable but may also put you outside of your comfort zone.
Realistic: A realistic goal should be meaningful. Your goal is likely realistic if you truly believe that it can be accomplished. Additional ways to know if your goal is realistic is to determine if you have accomplished anything similar in the past or ask yourself what conditions would have to exist to accomplish this goal.
Timely: A goal should be grounded within a time frame. With no time frame tied to it, there’s no sense of urgency. A time frame will also allow you to set deadlines for reaching your goal. This will help you stay on track and gauge your progress.
Below are examples of SMART goals for four focus areas in health improvement. These examples are to help you see how a goal can become less vague and more specific by using the SMART tool.
- I will eat 5 servings (specific) of fruits and vegetables daily for at least 4 days per week (measurable) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays (realistic) prior to my surgery (timely).
- I will drink at least 64oz (specific) of water per day at least 5 days per week (measurable). I will drink a glass of water before drinking anything else (realistic); furthermore, I will have water with every meal (attainable).
- I will work out by doing strength training (specific) 3 days per week (realistic) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the gym. I will do this after work from 5:45pm-6:30pm (timely) and will pack my gym clothes with me and bring them to work (attainable).
- I will walk with my family (specific) after dinner 4 days per week (measurable). We will clean–up after dinner then go for a 15 minute (realistic) walk in our neighborhood Monday–Thursday (timely).
- I will lower my systolic blood pressure by 12 points (specific) by limiting my salt intake to 1500 mg of sodium/day (measurable). I will do this by not adding salt to my meals and reading labels (realistic) so that I am aware of how much sodium is in the foods I am eating and will monitor it through a food journal (attainable). I will retest my blood pressure every two weeks for 3 months (timely).
- I will improve my HDL numbers (specific) by 5 points (measurable) by increasing my physical activity to 30 minutes or more 5 days per week (attainable). I will recheck my cholesterol on June 1 (timely)
- I will take one hour for myself every evening of the work week (specific & attainable) to turn off my work phone and computer. During this time, I will spend time with my family by playing games, talking or going for a walk (realistic).
- On Saturday mornings, I will wake up before everyone else (specific), so I have 2 hours (measurable) of me time where I will do an activity that makes me happy like needlework, reading a book or taking a bath (realistic & attainable)
There are two types of goals that can either help or hinder your weight loss efforts:
- Outcome goals – An outcome goal focuses on an end result. For example, you might have said: “I want to lose 25 pounds.” Or perhaps you mentioned that you want to weigh 125 pounds.
- Performance goals – A performance goal outlines the process or action taken in an effort to lose weight. A definitive performance goal is “I will go to my aerobics class and train for 45 minutes,” or “I will eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.”
Performance goals can help you achieve your outcome goals. However, setting outcome goals without performance goals leaves little room for success. Your outcome goals need to go hand-and-hand with your performance goals in order to take the necessary steps to see a desired result.
If you are trying to lose weight you do not need an outcome goal. If you follow through with your weight lose plan of action, the outcome goal will eventually come to be all on its own. However, aiming for a specific weight or target helps with motivation and could help you stay on track.
Set your performance goals first. Write them down on a piece of paper. Keep them in your purse, wallet, gym bag, taped on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator. Remind yourself everyday that if you consistently achieve your performance goals you will soon benefit from reaching your outcome goal.
Reference: Hensrud et al (2010). The Mayo Clinic Diet. Good Books. Intercourse, PA.