Like all of you, I have friends and family from all walks on their individual health journeys. And one such friend (Kristen) wrote a post this morning that inspired me to write this one.
Traditionally January arrives with much aplomb and general discussion of goals, many of which are laced and knotted with overt implications of diet, exercise, and healthier starts to the new year. And most of which get lost in the stampede of life happening and leaving our goals behind us because we don’t have time to slow down and truly implement such drastic changes as we believe falsely that we can. I don’t believe we fail to achieve our health goals because we’re incapable. I believe we simply don’t set realistic goals, but rather set ourselves up for failure, instead. That’s certainly no way to start the new year, and never the way to accomplish anything.
In the business world there is an acronym for goal setting that many of you will know immediately: S.M.A.R.T.
I’d like to break it down with respect to the healthier individuals we’d each like to become in the new year. And I’ll use myself as the example. I have never been a fruit eater. I’m much more into salt than I am into sweet, and fruit is oftentimes just too sweet to tempt me. While I have many things I’d like to do differently with respect to food this year, I want to tackle fruit first. I need more of it in my daily diet.
I first decided my intention was to eat more fruit. Um, anyone but me see that this is a completely lame and unachievable goal? Good job, Arminda. Eat more fruit. Sure, like that’s going to happen. So after I finished berating myself for having written down such a lousy goal, I reworked it to this: Eat one apple per day. Suddenly the heavenly choirs could be heard in the distance as I felt instinctively that I could eat an apple every day!
Don’t laugh. This is serious stuff. Because as soon as I master eating a daily apple, I can set a new goal that will probably involve kale and juicing, but that’s too unachievable right now.
Remember What About Bob? Bob self-talks to get to his next step:
And once he’s crossed off something, he celebrates:
Dr. Leo Marvin: Keep sailing, Bob!
Setting goals is simple if you follow the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines:
1. Is the goal Specific? “Eating more fruit” was too general, and I knew I would never actually increase my regular fruit intake. Narrowing it down to eating one apple every day is very specific, and I know exactly what I need to do.
2. Is the goal Measurable? One apple a day I can measure. I can even make myself a sticker chart for tracking if I want, but it is definitely measurable.
3. Is the goal Achievable? Yes. I can realistically eat one apple every day and not feel like I’m going crazy, or that I’ll walk away from the fruit bowl altogether.
4. Is the goal Relevant? Relevant to what? Well, theoretically, we each have a larger vision of where we are versus where we see ourselves in the future. Does this goal of eating an apple daily fit into that larger vision of my personal health journey? Yes, and in fact, the specificity allows me to achieve the more general goal I originally stated of eating more fruit.
5. Is the goal Time-based? I think this is one of the most important questions to ask ourselves, because without a timeline the goal can meet all the previous four “rules of engagement,” but still not ever be achieved. Opinions and studies vary on the length of time it takes to form (or to break) a habit, but if the standard is 21 days, then I should probably be even more specific in my goal and say Eat one apple per day for one month. Now this allows me to form the habit of daily apple eating, with the objective being to continue eating apples after the month time-frame has concluded, but it also allows me to check off the goal as having been achieved.
When it comes to your personal health journey, it’s yours. Own your journey, but decide where you are on the path. Give thoughtful consideration to whether your path is leading you, or whether you are determining your next steps and where they will take you. If your path is not currently as healthy as it could be, choose a daily apple goal, write it down, and be sure it’s SMART so you can come back and tell me what you achieved this month, and what your next goal will be in February.
I can’t wait to have another apple, and I really can’t wait for you to choose your healthiest path yet this year!