SMART Goal Setting

The start of the new year takes us into a new semester, new ambitions, and, of course, a new and improved you! We all have hopes and aspirations as we set our new year’s resolutions, but it can be daunting as you wonder where to start. When done right, goal setting can be super easy and effective. You just must be S.M.A.R.T.!

What is a S.M.A.R.T. Goal?
S.M.A.R.T Goals are small/specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and have a time frame. Accomplishing a small/specific goal builds confidence and motivates you to take on new goals that can help you achieve your overall aspirations. A specific goal provides a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. Furthermore, your goal should be measurable. It is much easier to reach an established goal of “x times/week” vs “from now until the day I die.” Next, your goal should be attainable. For instance, if your goal is revolved around healthy eating, start working on improving one meal per week; once you have conquered breakfast, set a new goal to improve lunch. Wellness related goals will be used as examples, but feel free to utilize these tips for any goal you want to set for yourself!

S.M.A.R.T goals must be realistic. It would not be realistic for me to set a goal to work out every day if I have not had a daily workout schedule in the past. Perhaps, I could start by working out 2-3 days/wk and progress with time. It is also beneficial to set a time frame for your goal. Try to set a time frame of 1 month or less, this allows you to reassess your goal and adjust, if necessary.

Take some time to personalize your goal by thinking about what the goal means to you. Personal goals enable growth, behavior change, and accountability. Assess your desire, ability, reason and need to fulfill the goal. Ask yourself, from a scale of 1-5, how important is it to me to cut out sweetened beverages or how interested/confident am I in making this change.

Remember to self-monitor by evaluating and acknowledging progress. Practice positive self-talk and embrace positive comments from friends, family, and counselors. Feedback enhances motivation and affirms that you are accomplishing your goal!

The 4 Benefits of a S.M.A.R.T. Goal

  • Provides Focus and Direction
    • Setting the S.M.A.R.T goal requires thoughtful reflection, which provides focus and direction that can be used to guide daily decision making.
  • Creates a Plan
    • Starting with specific, smaller, short-term goals can help keep you on track, motivated and in the right direction for reaching your overall goal.
  • Delivers Faster, Sustainable Results
    • Personalizing your goals and making them work for you can help you accomplish your goals quickly. Also, these goals are more likely to become a part of your lifestyle.
  • Reduces Stress
    • Reassessing your goals allows you to modify your existing goal to make it more realistic for you, thereby reducing the feeling of stress or failure if the goal isn’t initially met.

How to make a S.M.A.R.T. Goal
At this point, you may be thinking that creating a S.M.A.R.T. goal is scary because you must think about the what, why, how, when, where, and even who. But if you take it in steps and ask yourself these series of questions, you’ll be well on your way to making a S.M.A.R.T goal.

We’ll start with a simple goal: I want to meal prep more.

  • Question 1: Is it specific? As it is, this goal is not yet specific. We can improve this by specifying lunch and snacks. Updated goal: I want to meal prep lunch and snacks more.
  • Question 2: Is it measurable? Not quite. We can’t improve what we don’t measure, so let’s specify how many days out of the week we’d like for our meals to be prepped. Updated goal: I want to meal prep lunch and snacks three days per week.
  • Question 3: Is it achievable? With the right planning, yes! What would probably not be achievable is aiming to meal prep every single meal and snack seven days per week.
  • Question 4: Is it realistic? This is a question that will highly depend on you and your situation. Another question you might want to ask yourself is if you have time to work towards this goal?
  • Question 5: What’s your time frame? When making your goal you’ll want to make sure you set goalposts for yourself to check in with your progress. For our example, let’s give ourselves 1 month.

So, our new and improved S.M.A.R.T. goal is: I want to meal prep lunch and snacks three days per week for 1 month.

Goal-setting in this manner will allow you to place realistic expectations on yourself as well as help keep you accountable. And remember, it’s okay if you don’t meet every aspect of your goal. This is why you set a time frame to reassess and adjust!

Written by our Nutrition Interns