Trying to set goals but wondering what to do when you want to give up in the coming months? The key to goal setting is to plan strategies that account for how to keep going when you want to give up.
Fortunately, setting SMART goals can help individuals stay on track year-round. Read on for tips and tricks on how to not give up on weight loss and health goals this year.
Why Are Health Goals Important?
The reason health goals are important differs greatly from person to person. Generally, people set health goals to have a better overall quality of life.
Within that "umbrella" goal are smaller aims that help them accomplish those bigger milestones, such as:
• Enjoying health
• Reducing disease risk
• Increasing energy levels
• Living pain and illness free
• Managing stress
• Eating nutritiously
• Working out and or increasing physical activity and movement
• Managing weight or other health measures
• Improving immunity
Setting Goals Step-By-Step
Great goals start by using a SMART process (detailed in the next section). Huge goals are not accomplished overnight.
Instead, goals are the work of daily, small steps and shifts that contribute to a bigger change.
Where to Start
Some people feel the need to start living in a healthier way, but don't always know where to start - that's totally okay and normal!
Common goals people set to better their health include:
• Learning to read a food label
• Becoming more active each day
• Finding exercise that is enjoyable
• Cooking more at home
• Staying hydrated
• Making mindful habits
• Improving mental health
Set SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym used in many medical settings to help patients set, well, smart health goals (as the name suggests). One does not have to be in a hospital, doctor's office, or on their deathbed to make a major change!
Change can start today by using this layout for setting weight loss goals or health milestones for the month or year. Here's what each letter in SMART stands for.
Specific goals answer the major questions in relation to the overall goal, like what, why, and how. Vague goals leave space for confusion while specific goals allow for clarity.
Set specific goals by filling out the details of each step it takes to get to the major goal that needs to be accomplished.
How can a goal be met if progress can't be measured? Making goals measurable allows one to keep track of their progress and make adjustments to key parts of the process.
If one method is not working, adjust it and be sure to set measures that allow for accountability to continue.
It might sound silly, but a good goal is one that has a chance of being achieved. Set goals based on the current level of abilities, knowing that there is a time and place for goals in the future when to reach their ideal weight or health state.
Realistic (or Relevant)
Attainable and realistic goal characteristics are similar but with a few key differences. Realistic goals account for the slow, gradual work it takes to accomplish a goal. In other words, realistic goals account for "real-life" where factors like stress or weather force the need for a bit of flexibility.
Another similar word often used to represent the "R” in SMART is relevant. The goal should make sense to the individual as a person. It should be meaningful, not a hollow effort to fit in with trendy goals or fad diets of modern day.
For example, losing weight might not have much meaning or relevance attached to it on its own. However, tie losing weight to having more energy to accomplish daily tasks and there's suddenly a lot more at stake. The goal becomes realistic and relevant, as well as linked to the individual's vision.
The "T" in SMART can differ, but it usually stands for "time-bound," "time-sensitive," or "timetable."
Goals should be divided into smaller chunks that can be accomplished each day. In fact, research shows that it takes two weeks to a month of consistent routine for a new, healthy habit or activity to stick.
When it comes to weight loss journeys and goals, time is a key part. Losing weight too quickly can actually be dangerous and lead to serious and sometimes permanent health conditions.
How to Stick to Health Goals
The following tips and tricks can help anyone make meaningful life changes and improve their health.
Make a List of Motivators
Motivation answers the "why" of the goal. When the journey gets tough (and it will at some point), a picture in one's head of what life could look like can be a powerful reminder. Brain studies even suggest that the mind doesn't differentiate as much as once thought between truly visualizing and manifesting goals and actually achieving them.
Playing with grandkids or kids, increasing energy to enjoy life more, or creating healthy patterns for those one loves can be a powerful place to start. Make a list today of reasons why the goal is worth it to stay motivated!
Start with Step One
Build a solid foundation by starting with step one, not skipping to the top! For example, running a marathon can be intimidating.
However, starting by jogging, then walking, then running each day can chip away at that much larger goal while still allowing room for gentle, gradual growth.
Write It Down & Keep Track Of Progress
Studies show that the act of writing helps people stick to their goals. It offers a way to stay accountable while also making it easy to measure progress along the way.
So, grab a journal or make a checklist to start getting closer to those goals today.
Plan for The Best, Prepare for the Worst
People like to plan goals for their ideal, happiest self to accomplish. In all reality, life can be messy and hectic!
Plan to accomplish the goal (and celebrate a big achievement), but also prepare for roadblocks and upsets along the way. This may seem "pessimistic" but research shows it actually is key for making/reaching goals and preventing negativity from creeping in.
Allow for Gentle Growth
SMART goals may seem overwhelming at first glance. However, breaking a goal down actually makes it more likely to be achieved. There will be days where it's easy to get discouraged but allow for a bit of grace and flexibility.
There is a Japanese art called "Kintsugi," which is the process of using gold to repair cracks in a vase or piece of pottery. While one might look at the broken object as ugly, unusable, or unusual, the gold actually increases the value of the object and makes it more dynamic and beautiful as a whole.
Just like a broken vase, becoming "broken" or feeling broken down along the way can actually supply a wealth of experience. There is no such thing as failing when it comes to creating a learning experience, and that's exactly what is happening when one sets SMART goals.
The Final Word on Setting Weight Loss & Health Goals
Health and wellness goals are not an overnight success. However, small shifts and daily changes can be smart and significant. People can get closer to becoming the ideal individual they want to be by starting today.
An easier way to set and achieve health goals. Harvard Health. Published August 1, 2017. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mens-health/an-easier-way-to-set-and-achieve-health-goals.
Bhandari P. The Importance of Health Goals and How to Reach Them. SF Advanced Health. https://www.sfadvancedhealth.com/blog/health-goals.
Stibich M. SMART Goals for Lifestyle Change. Verywell Mind. Published December 15, 2020. https://www.verywellmind.com/smart-goals-for-lifestyle-change-2224097.