SMART Goals (Not Resolutions)

People get very busy each year in January talking about New Year’s Resolutions. Here is what I propose instead. Make SMART goals this year. Put them in writing. Look at them each day, more than once a day. SMART goals are specific, measurable, action based, and realistic. They also have a time line.

“I’m going to get in shape this year.” What doe’s that mean? Effective goals have to be specific enough to carry real meaning. “I will exercise three times a week and complete my first 5k race this year.” Now this is a specific goal!

“I’m going to exercise more.” This goal is not specific, nor is it measurable. A measurable goal gives you a way to know if you are falling short, achieving, or surpassing it. A measurable goal looks like this: “I will exercise three times each week for an hour accumulating three hours of exercise weekly.”

“I’m going to lose 30 pounds.” Having a specific result in mind is a good thing. It energizes and motivates. Focusing too much on results can be detrimental. Why? Because it draws attention away from the process–those specific actions that bring about the desired results. Action based goals get you focused on the process, which is really where the results are produced. Most coaches and psychologists agree that process oriented individuals outperform those that are too focused on outcomes only.

“I’m going to lose 30 pounds in January and climb Kilimanjaro. Oh, and I haven’t exercised in 10 years.” I will be the last person to tell anyone that something is impossible, but here are some questions to ask about your goals: Do I really have the time to do what’s necessary to accomplish this? Am I willing to make the changes it will take? Will accomplishing this really give me what I’m seeking? Is my timeline reasonable?

Although it comes last in the acronym, the timeline is the first consideration. “Begin with the end in mind.” This is one of Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  Imagine a year from today and write SMART goals for that timeline. Write three month SMART goals that get your closer to the one year goals. Then write weekly goals that bring you closer to the three month goals. Begin focusing on what you will do TODAY to accomplish the weekly goal.

SMART goals will bring your more progress than resolutions. And remember a goal that is not written down is merely a wish. Subject every decision and every action to this question: Does it bring me closer to my goal, or farther from it?


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Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.

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