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Published on February 29, 2012

Resolve to Keep Your Resolutions with SMART Goals 

February 29, 2012

If you have a gym membership, you probably have noticed how crowded the workout floor is from January through February. Then suddenly the treadmills become more available and the aerobics classes start to thin out as everything returns to “normal.” So is it the same with your health-related New Year’s resolutions? Do they last a few weeks and then it’s back to “normal?” Perhaps you've not set SMART goals. Taking a systematic approach to goal-setting can improve your chances of making long-lasting resolutions and habit changes.

“S” is for Specific, Stated and Shared

Be very specific about what you want to accomplish. State it by writing it down and sharing it with others. A goal of “improve physical fitness” is more vague than “improve physical fitness by starting a walking program. I’ll start with 1 mile per day, 3 days a week in January and by September will have worked up to my goal 3 miles per day, 4 days per week. Sharing goals and working on them together with a friend, family member or co-worker may improve your chances of success.

“M” is for Measurable, Meaningful, and Motivational

If you can’t measure your goal, it will be too difficult to manage. Set up a way to measure whether or not you are meeting your goal. For example, if your goal is to “improve my health by eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day”, place a date-book in a place you can’t miss everyday, such as by your toothbrush. Every evening when you brush your teeth, reflect back on your fruit and vegetable consumption during the day and record the servings. Grading yourself each month and noting the benefits of your change can certainly add meaning to your goal, and motivation to continue.

“A” is for Agreement, Action and Accountability

Health-related goals should be agreed upon by your physician. For nutrition-related goals, ask your physician to refer you to a Registered Dietitian, the most reliable source of up-to-date nutrition information. Remember, change isn’t going to just happen. Consider what action needs to take place to achieve the goal. For example, in order to achieve your weight loss goal you may need to substitute low-calorie flavored water or teas for sodas. Your dietitian can help you set up an action plan. Having an accountability partner, whether it is a dietitian or friend sharing the same goal, can also help improve your chances of success. Decide to meet in person, via phone, or even e-mail weekly or monthly for a progress report.

“R” is for Realistic, Reasonable and Rewarded

Make sure your goal is realistic. Weight loss goals are not realistic if they involve losing more than 1-2 pounds per week. But is that reasonable for you? If weight loss is your goal, you may want to set it at 2-3 pounds a month. It may sound slow, but 24-36 pounds in a year is very significant! Change is often an evolution, not a revolution. Be sure to set up rewards along the way. Perhaps after each completed exercise session, put a dollar in a jar. At the end of each month treat yourself to a new CD or clothing item. Remember, feeling good and enjoying the best possible health may be the best reward.

“T” is for Timely and Targeted

What is the timeline for your goal? Try breaking a large stretch goal down into smaller goals and targets. Make a goal calendar and place it where you can see it every day and easily track your progress. Be sure you've given yourself enough time to complete the goal but not so much time that you could become complacent. Setting a completion time for your goal and keeping that in sight encourages diligent work towards the goal.

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