I want to lose weight. I want to be healthier. I want to get in shape. As Orchard Cove’s Vitalize360 Coach, I often hear these goals, especially as the New Year approaches. And while made with positive intentions, they are sometimes flawed in their vagueness.
In several of our evidence-based programs at Hebrew SeniorLife, we use a goal planning system known as SMART, meaning that goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time specific.
For example, consider the popular goal of “I want to get fit” versus “I want to be able to run a mile.” The mile goal is specific enough to be measured. It’s also not as overwhelming as trying to run a half-marathon, making it achievable. You can consider your running history and see if it is realistic. It is also a goal that can be built up to over time if you create a well-designed plan tailored to your individual fitness level.
The New Year is a time for renewal and positive changes, but it can also be a trap for disappointment. Goals usually reflect significant behavioral changes that take time to achieve – not just a few weeks after the first of the year.
With diet and exercise goals, I often witness an “all or nothing” mindset that can lead to disappointment. An example of a goal that’s doomed to failure is banning all sweets or carbohydrates entirely from your diet. This can be a drastic change that you aren’t ready for physically or mentally. Using the SMART approach, smaller, more specific goals like not eating bread with dinner or only having one sweet treat a day can be more realistic and achievable options.
It’s also important to remember that goals don’t have to be about taking something away from yourself. Perhaps your goal for the New Year is to research exercise activities for seniors and find one you love. Or maybe, you decide to invest more time into a long-lost hobby or put more effort into replenishing a relationship in your life. Don’t be afraid to start small to see the big results.