By: Lindsey Anuzis, MA, LCMHCA, NCC, RBT
We are a couple of weeks into the New Year, and you may be wondering why you are starting to lose motivation regarding those resolutions you made on January 1st. Well, I am here to help! What people often struggle with when setting resolutions or goals, is the lack of an actionable plan. You often hear a typical New Year’s resolution, such as, “I am going to get fit.” However, there is no specific plan of how to achieve this goal, and after a couple of weeks, progress often dwindles. Although, when you start using the SMART method of goal setting, you will be far more likely to make and maintain progress toward your goals.
So what is a SMART goal? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-bound. Setting SMART goals helps to clarify ideas, in addition to focusing your efforts and resources for more productive use of time. SMART goals can be beneficial for both personal, and professional goals, and are often something that I encourage my own counseling clients to utilize.
Let’s get SMART!
S – Specific: Target a specific area for improvement.
M – Measurable: Quantify or identify how you will monitor progress.
A – Achievable: Specify who will do it and how.
R – Realistic: What can be realistically achieved given resources?
T – Time-bound: Specify a target date or general time frame for when results will be achieved.
In getting started using SMART goals, you must first start with a specific objective. The more specific your objective, the more likely you are to comply with the steps to get there! Questions you can ask yourself are; “What exactly do I want to achieve?,” “Where, how, when..,” “What are possible limitations, or barriers,” “What are some alternatives,” and in my personal opinion, the most important question to ask yourself is, “WHY?”
Knowing your “why,” is something that can be extremely motivating and helpful to keep you on track and focused. Some examples of a “WHY” statement could be something along the lines of, “I want a better work-life balance so I can enjoy more time with family” or “I want to be more financially responsible so I can take care of my kids,” or “I want to engage in more self-care so I reduce stress and am more productive throughout my day,” or “I want to get fit because I will feel, look, and be healthier.”
Now that we understand our “WHY” we can talk about how to be specific. In using the example, “I want to engage in more self-care so I can reduce stress and improve productivity,” a way to write it as a more specific goal could be something along the lines of, “I will engage in 30 minutes of self-care a day, Monday-Friday.” This format is specific, and with it, you know what is expected of you.
Understanding how to measure a goal is half the battle in accomplishing it. Using the self-care example above, you could consider keeping track of how many days you follow through, in addition to tracking levels of stress. This will help to see how the self-care impacts stress. Questions to ask yourself when determining if your goal/objective is measureable, could be something like, “How much,” “How many,” “How will I know when it is fulfilled?”
Goals should be attainable. Making sure a goal aligns with your priorities and fits in with your obligations, is crucial to the success of it. Questions you can ask yourself are “How can I achieve this?,” or “How realistic is this goal?.”
Your goal should also be relevant and align with your values as a person, in both your personal and professional lives. You should ensure that by achieving this goal, the effort will bring positive benefits to your life. Questions to ask yourself may include, “Does this goal seem worth it?,” or “Is this the right time?”
Goals must also be time-bound. Having a goal or objective without a time frame is more of an aspiration or dream. Having a realistic time frame to accomplish your goals, not only helps with expectations, but will also improve motivation. Ways to think about objectives in a time oriented sense can stem from questions such as, “When?,” “What can I do in 6 Months,” “What can I do in 6 weeks?,” or “What can I do today to work towards my goal?”
Now that you have learned how to set SMART goals, you can check in on those New Year’s resolutions and look for ways to improve or adjust them. With the SMART method of goal setting, I can assure you that you will start to see more progress! Happy goal setting!