SMART Goals: A is for Action-Based

 

SMART goals promote success. The criteria for a SMART goal is one that is:

  • S Specific
  • M Measurable
  • A Action-Based
  • R Realistic
  • T Time-bound

So far we looked closer at the S in SMART, Specific. Chris and Sarah are our clients. Chris wants to lose weight to improve his health and mobility. Sarah wants to improve her time management to reduce stress. After applying the criteria of Specific, we discovered these goals:

  • Chris: Limit his caloric intake to a specific amount per day.
  • Sarah: Choose to say no to a given number of tasks per day.

After applying the criteria of Measurable, our goals changed to:

  • Chris’ goal may be any one or all of :
    • Decrease in blood pressure level.
    • Decrease in LDL cholesterol level.
    • Increase in number of minutes he can walk without tiring.
  • Sarah’s goal becomes to self-report either or both of:
    • No days per week when her stress level is higher than 5.
    • Four days a week when her stress level is 3 or lower.

The third criteria of a SMART goal is that it be Action-Based. We are now going to DO something.

If we combine both parts of the goals we have already developed, we find we can easily show action in our goal:

  • Chris: Limit his calories to a specific amount per day to decrease his blood pressure and/or LDL cholesterol level.
  • Sarah: Choose to say no to a give number of tasks per day in order to experience no days per week when her stress level is higher than 5 and/or 4 days per week when her stress level is three or lower.

While these goals are action-based, we need to consider how ready and confident we are to change. Often, we are far too willing to commit to something because we want results fast. (Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead!) What action we choose depends on what we need, not on how fast we can race to the goal. Goals that are action-based, and help us to increase our confidence and readiness may include:

  • Gathering more information about the benefits of the change we are about to undertake to increase our commitment to the change.
  • Making a list of how the change ties into our values for our life.
  • Gathering support from friends, coworkers or family to support us with the change we want to make.
  • Identifying ways to change our environment to support our efforts to change. Putting a picture or object that symbolizes our goal somewhere to inspire us or removing triggers from our environment that might sabotage us (removing the full candy dish from our desk or finding a different route to drive home from work to avoid our favorite fast-food place) are two examples.
  • Journaling about how your current behavior affects you or how not changing will further impact your life in the future.

When considering what is action-based for you, remember to consider where you are in the change process. If you are still wavering in your commitment or your confidence to make the changes you desire, consider a goal that will help your increase these things. Being ready and confident to change are necessary mindsets to reach and keep your goals.

Next time, we’ll look closer at further refining our goals to meet the fourth criteria, Realistic.

Until then…

 

 

Take GOOD care of yourself.

SMART Goal: M is for Measurable

 

SMART goals promote success. The criteria for a SMART goal is one that is:

  • S Specific
  • M Measurable
  • A Action-Based
  • R Realistic
  • T Time-bound

Last time, we looked closer at the S in SMART, Specific. Chris and Sarah are our clients. Chris wants to lose weight to improve his health and mobility. Sarah wants to improve her time management to reduce stress. After applying the criteria of Specific in the previous post, we discovered these goals:

  • Chris: Limit his caloric intake to a specific amount per day.
  • Sarah: Choose to say no to a given number of tasks per day.

Adding the second criteria, Measurable, adds a new dimension to our process. While these goals are specific, are they measurable? At first, they do appear to meet this criteria. Chris and Sarah can measure their respective goals by either counting calories or counting the number of times requests are declined in a given day. These measurements do not appear related to their original goals. How does counting calories indicate Chris’ increase health and mobility? How does saying no reduce Sarah’s stress? It’s difficult to see how these measures relate to each client’s desired outcome.

Let’s start with Chris. How can we make his goals of better health and mobility measurable?
While weight loss in pounds is often the typical target, there may be other measures that are more meaningful. Chris became aware of his need for improving his health during his annual physical exam, when he learned his blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels were elevated. His doctor informed Chris he may prescribe medication for either one or both of these issues in six months at Chris’ follow-up visit. Chris wants to avoid taking medication. Chris also learned that when he tried to walk for exercise, he discovered he can only walk for 15 minutes before getting too tired to continue.

More measurable and meaningful goals for Chris may be any one of all of the following:

  1. Decrease in blood pressure level.
  2. Decrease in LDL cholesterol level.
  3. Increase in number of minutes he can walk without tiring.

All of these goals are specific and measurable for better health and mobility.

Sarah wants to reduce her stress through better time management. Unlike Chris, Sarah’s stress is not reflected in a direct physical measure, such as blood pressure. How can Sarah find a way to measure a decrease in her stress?

Self-report might be the answer. Sarah knows that she experiences stress based on the following thoughts and feelings:

  • almost constant thoughts about what she has to do next
  • feeling helpless, which may or may not result in tears
  • feelings of exhaustion

Sarah’s coach has asked her to rate on a scale of 1-10, how stressful she feels each day. Currently Sarah notes she experiences a stress level of 8 at least four days a week. By noting at the end of each day her stress level based on the presence of these thoughts and feelings, Sarah can use either one or both of these goals:

  1. No days per week when her stress level is higher than 5.
  2. Four days a week when her stress level is 3 or lower.

Both of these goals are specific and measurable ways to measure Sarah’s stress level.

Chris’ and Sarah’s goals are still a work in progress. Now that they are Specific and Measureable, we will consider next how to include Action-based, the third criteria for SMART goals.

Until next time…

 

 

Take GOOD care of yourself.

SMART Goal: S is for Specific

 

Using the SMART goal framework increases your chance of achieving your goals. The criteria for a SMART goal is one that is:

  • S Specific
  • M Measurable
  • A Action-Based
  • R Realistic
  • T Time-bound

We’re going to look at SMART goal setting using two clients. Chris wants to lose weight to improve his health and mobility. Sarah wants to improve her time management skills to reduce stress. Both need to make their goals more specific.

Let’s start with Chris. Weight loss seems like an easy goal to make specific. Weight is all about numbers, so most people just pick an amount of weight to lose. Chris could say he wants to lose 20 pounds. While this is a specific number, this goal does not meet the criteria. Chris has no direct control over his weight. He has indirect control by increasing exercise and reducing food intake, but he cannot directly control how much or how quickly he loses weight. A more specific goal would be to limit himself to a given number of calories per day.

Sarah’s targets of time management and stress reduction are broader and more vague than Chris’ weight loss. Sarah could set her goal to do less tasks in a day. This is a specific goal, but it needs further refining. After discussing the matter with her coach, Sarah recognizes that she accepts all tasks that are asked of her by her employer, her family and her friends. As a result, she finds herself pressured for time every day. Since she often cannot do everything that is asked of her, she also feels incompetent. Sarah realizes that she does not allow herself to question whether taking on a task is necessary or something that she wants to do. She simply says yes. A more specific goal for Sarah would be to choose to say no to a given number of tasks a day.

I used these two examples to illustrate two points:

  1. Even goals that initially seem specific, such as weight loss, may require further refining.
  2. Careful consideration can allow you to set specific goals in areas that seem vague, such as in relationships, communication, and stress management.

This is just a start for Chris and Sarah’s goals. Next time I will discuss how to make their goals meet the next criteria, Measurable.

Until next time…

 

 

Take good care.

 

 

 

Goal Setting

 

What type of goals lead to success?

When making lasting improvements in your well-being, having a carefully developed goal is as important as having a map on a journey. A good goal allows you to:

  • See your exact path.
  • Determine a reasonable change to make in a given amount of time.
  • Tell you how to measure your progress along the way.

Taking time to design your goals increases your chance of success. In the next few blog posts, I am going to share with you one of the simplest and more effective ways to set your goals, the SMART framework.

SMART goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Action Oriented
Realistic
Timed

While each of these criteria seem simple, we often complicate the process by several assumptions.

We tend to view ourselves as more like machines than humans. We fail to take into consideration our individual starting points, limits, and the complexity of being a person trying to change a long-standing pattern. We need to seriously examine how much we rely on this pattern, how often we use this strategy, and how long we have been using it.

We see our path as walking a straight line on a smooth surface. In reality, life is anything but that. Everything changes from day to day. Expecting to never deviate from your path is asking too much. When something happens that keeps us from sticking to our goal, it is important to recognize this as a signal, similar to a detour sign on a road. We don’t give ourselves a hard time for taking a detour. To proceed in a straight line could be harmful. We need to learn to use these signals to adjust our course if necessary.

We want to change NOW. Think about how long it takes to learn something. If you learned to ride a bike, do you remember how long it took? How about all the aids (other people, training wheels) that you needed to rely on along the way? Changing a habit can be just as challenging. It is a process that requires time.

If you are interested and have 8 minutes to spare, there is a video about bikes and learning you can check out that illustrates this point.

So, before you start to set a goal, it is helpful to remember:

  • We are human beings, not machines.
  • The path of change is full of challenges and detours.
  • You didn’t learn to ride a bicycle overnight.

In my next post, I will examine the first criteria for SMART goals, which is setting Specific goals.

Until then…

 

Take good care of yourself.