Making healthy lifestyle changes can be really difficult. We form habits that become ingrained in our daily routines and we depend upon them to maintain our mood and functioning. For example, many people depend on their morning coffee in order to feel as though they can function at work. Similarly, it may affect your mood and functioning if you miss your afternoon “treat” – a common occurrence to combat that afternoon slump.
We all say we will overcome the less good behaviours, but without setting a plan, this can be near impossible to stick to. This is where SMART goals can be extremely useful. They may seem like they are for children but they are equally as beneficial for adults as well.
What does SMART stand for?
The acronym SMART stands for:
Specific – Define the goal in detail. A goal should not be vague. Outline exactly what behaviour you want to target.
Measurable – The goal must involve some unit of measurement in order to
determine whether it has been achieved.
Achievable – The goal must be achievable. Setting the bar too high can lead to disappointment when the goal is not achieved. If anything, make the goal easier to begin with and you can always make it harder as you progress.
Relevant – A goal must be relevant to the behaviour you would like to change. Ensure it is going to help you work towards the outcome you want to achieve.
Timely – It is important to set a time-frame as this will keep you motivated! People always work better when there is a deadline in sight.
What is the purpose of a SMART goal?
SMART goals are a fantastic way to help you achieve a desired lifestyle change and to change a specific behaviour. They are targeted and structured to keep you focused and motivated. Being unclear with goals can lead you to stray or not take them seriously.
Who are SMART goals useful for?
As previously mentioned, SMART goals are useful for both adults and children. Sitting down and setting goals with your children can be a really effective way to get them excited about making healthy changes and to take ownership of their health and behaviours.
Examples of SMART goals?
- By the end of the week I will be drinking six glasses of water spread across the day, every day.
- By the end of the month I will be consuming five serves of vegetables every day.
- By the end of the month I will be going for a bike ride every second day for 40 minutes.
Set smaller goals that will lead to the desired change
Breaking a goal down in to smaller steps can make it much easier to achieve. For instance, if you currently eat 2 serves of vegetables each day, try increasing by 1 serve each week until you are at 5 serves each day. If you are wanting to swim 1 kilometre, then aim to be swimming 250m more by the end of each week for one month. It is good to progress and feel good about yourself when you achieve the smaller milestones.
Bad examples of SMART goals
- I will do more exercise – this is not measurable nor does it have a time frame.
- By the end of the month I will be eating less chocolate – This is again lacking a measurable unit. How much chocolate will you be eating and how frequently?
SMART Goals and rewards
Setting up a reward system is very useful for keeping children motivated. It can also work for adults, however it is best not to choose food rewards as this reinforces bad habits of linking food with emotions. Try small objects like stickers, movie tickets, or having a friend over – children are normally quite easy to please. If a longer term goal is reached then a bigger reward can be given.
Using a star chart system can be a good way to get children involved and to keep that motivation going. Children get enjoyment out of putting a ticker on each day and seeing how they are progressing.
Remember to remain positive and reward even small achievements on a daily basis!
Contact us for results focused nutritional advice
This article was written by our dietitian Belinda Elwin who is a Dietitians Association of Australia member and Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist. If you have questions about nutrition, make an appointment. We‘ll provide you with a simple and effective routine targeted to your concerns. Contact us today!