Why is it so difficult to make changes and stick to them? Many times we have things that we would like to change about ourselves; however, it is not always easy. My wife recently decided to make a few changes to improve her overall health. These changes include working out more often and eating better, but in order for her to succeed she needs to set goals, stay motivated, and be able to measure her results. The best way to do this is to set SMART goals— that is, specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Experts say that people are more likely to achieve long term change if they follow the SMART guidelines. So, if you’re thinking of making a change, see if your goal can pass the SMART test:
Specific goals: For example: I will add one fruit or vegetable serving to my current diet every day.
Measure progress. For example, Keep a journal of how often you work out and what you eat (good or bad).
Achievable. For example: Start with 15 minutes of cardio. If your first goal is to do cardio for 1 hour you will feel like a failure and be more likely to give up. Your goals should be safe for your current fitness level. An injury is a sure fire way to derail a new fitness plan. Small achievable goals that continue to increase as you become more fit will make you more likely to stick with it.
Realistic. There is a time and a place to dream big, but starting out with a new fitness and healthy eating plan is not the time. Instead think about that one thing you know you can give up or start doing that would be a healthful choice. Don’t set your first goal as never eating bread again, losing 50 pounds, and running a marathon…. It may sound obvious in these terms, but how often have we set un-realistic goals and then been disappointed in ourselves? Instead set a goal of switching to whole grain bread, adding a serving of fruit or veggies to every meal, and getting up and moving for at least 20 minutes a day.
Time Based Goals: Pick a date and time to start, no time like the present but be official that you are starting something new and working toward a goa. Check in each week, maybe on Sunday afternoon, and review your journal to see how you are doing, congratulate yourself on your positive changes, and think about what next small change would be achievable. Finally, find a deadline that is a few months out (high school reunion, 5K fun run to sign up for, or some other event) that will motivate you reach your goals.