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What do you want?
So what is it exactly that you want to achieve in this next few months? Three months is just about the right period of time, to focus on achieving a short to medium term goal. This could be a stepping stone to an ultimate long term goal, or it could be something that you can achieve in a few months and the job will be done.
- Do you want to improve your fitness?
- Do you want to lose a particular amount of weight?
- Is there a particular outfit you want to fit in for an event this year?
- Is there a particular event that you want to participate in?
Whatever your goal is, it needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound! A SMART goal!
If you have really big goal, such as you want to lose 6 stones, go from couch to marathon, or reverse your diabetes it is sensible to break this down into smaller bite size chunks – and tackle it one chunk at a time. A very long term goal with no reward in between can be very disheartening when you are three months in and still have 9 to go, so having targets along the way of mini, shorter term goals can really help to keep the motivation up. Make sure you reward yourself, each time you hit one of the mini goals along the way.
Let’s get back to this SMART goal thing….
A SMART Goal is an acronym, used frequently in business and project management terms, but lends itself very nicely to lifestyle change. S stands for Specific, M for Measurable, A – achievable, R – Realistic and T – Time bound.
A vague goal gives you nothing tangible to aim for, and no way of measuring your success along the way, nor do you know when you have achieved it! If a goal is very specific, you can develop a plan to get you there, because you know exactly what you want to achieve, you can measure whether you have achieved it, and you know specifically what success actually looks like. Specific goals give detail – numbers are involved usually – they tell you things that you can measure in some way.
A measurable goal comes from the specifics we mentioned above. If you can measure your progress towards your goal, you can work out if you need to carry on as you are, or you need to make some tweaks to your performance and up your game. It’s helpful to measure your progress against your goal on a weekly or monthly basis, so you know how close you are to achieving. Good measures to have in your goals are: inches, pounds or kg lost, time or speed at which you can do something, attendance at a regular event or class, blood pressure or other similar health measures.
You can break down what success looks like on a week by week basis when you have measures in place. If you know what weekly success looks like, you are much more likely to stay focused and on track, because you are able to measure if you are winning. So keeping it weight loss related; if you want to lose 2 stones in 15 weeks, you need to lose around 2lbs a week, each week. If you step on the scales and you have lost 1lb, whilst it is still good, you know its not enough, and you need to re-evaluate your performance and work out how to improve on it. If you step on the scales and you have lost 2lbs, then you have achieved your weekly goal. You know that you are experiencing success and on your way to achieving your main goal.
With regards to how achievable your goal is, there is no point setting a goal that you want to lose 6 stones in just three months – because it is nigh on impossible. But there is a point in setting a goal to lose 2 stones in 3 months – because that is very much achievable. If you set that as a mini goal 3 times over – 9 months later you have achieved your ultimate goal of losing 6 stone, and because you have had intermediate goals, it has allowed you to stay focused on the job in hand, and experience success along the way.
You really need to keep it real when planning your goals. And what we mean by that is that you also need to keep your other goals and responsibilities in mind.
Making it realistic, helps to achieve it. So when you are setting your goal, think what it will take to achieve it, and whether you are prepared and able to put that level of work in to get there. If not, pull it back a bit, to a level that you know you will achieve. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stretch yourself, your goal should scare you a little, just not too much. You can build up to that scary, massive stretch of a goal in time.
Don’t over complicate things by giving yourself too many goals to achieve at once – stick to one. That way you can give this one thing, the maximum mental attention it needs, and make it much more likely that you won’t give up half way through. This is more important than you realise, because we still have ‘real life’ to contend with, and that often gets in the way of our goals, so keeping it simple and sticking to one at a time, makes everything that much more achievable.
Speaking of real life – consider what else needs doing in your life, your other commitments and start thinking of how you will manage fitting in achieving your goal around your ‘real life’.
Set yourself a time limit to achieve your goal – again this helps you to measure your progress. If you have a date in mind, then you are always aiming for that date. Without a set date, then end is infinite, and you will never get there.
Take small steps
I have always had a goal of running a marathon. Ever since I watched my Dad take part in the very first London marathon in 1981, when I was still in my pram, and in subsequent years watching the London Marathon on TV, I felt so inspired to take part in such an amazing and challenging event.
Since I have started running and made ‘running friends’, I look on in awe and amazement at my friends who take part in such events throughout the year, and have always dreamed that one day it will be me.
But you don’t just rock up to the start line on marathon day and run a marathon. Marathons are run in the long winter weekend training runs, they are run in early morning training sessions in the pouring rain, they are run by fuelling your body correctly and getting the right amount of sleep, throughout your training program, to make sure you are firing on all cylinders. And, in my heart of hearts, I knew in the past that I didn’t have the time to commit to this, so I never did. The time with my family was precious at weekends, and in the past training for shorter events such as half marathons, has caused friction within my family. So a marathon for me was never going to happen…. until 2021! 2021 was the right time for me. I was able to fit the training in, get the right nutrition, the right amount of sleep and most importantly to me, still see my family.
So this goal of mine to run a marathon, was probably ten or twelve years in the making before it finally came to fruition. And my point in telling you this is that just because I couldn’t do it when I first dreamt of it, doesn’t mean that I haven’t worked incrementally to get there for the last ten years. I didn’t just think, well I can’t do a marathon now, so there is no point eating healthily, improving my fitness, and getting my weight down, until the time that I can do one. I think everyone can see what would be a bit daft. Why wouldn’t I do everything in my power to make the training process as easy as possible in preparation for that ultimate goal?
What I am getting at here is – if your ultimate goal is to lose 6 stone, don’t not bother because it seems too hard a job, or it will take too long. Because the chances are 3, 6 and 12 months from now, you will still want to lose 6 stone. But, if you had put that interim goal in place, to lose 2 stone, within 3 months, you are a third of the way there, and probably quite a bit happier with yourself and reaping the benefits of being 2 stones lighter.
What are you prepared to sacrifice?
Deciding how much you are prepared to sacrifice, is a very important part of the goal setting process. It goes hand in hand, with not taking on too many other goals. We all have busy lives, we all have things that we have to do, responsibilities to other people, and these things are quite often set in stone, and not open to change or compromise. So you need to look at which aspects of your life are open to change and compromise and how you can manipulate these areas of your life to fit in with your goals and aspirations.
When it comes to weight loss goals, there will be food and drink that you will need to sacrifice, because you can’t lose weight on exercise alone. But because what we ask you to do is to look at the food you love and make it fit in your calories, we hope that there won’t be too many of these that have to go for good. If you can find a way to make your favourite treat fit in once a month, once a fortnight or once a week (depending on how calorific it is) then you should do it, because you will be more likely to succeed in achieving your goals if the sacrifices haven’t been too great.
Make your environment work for you
We all have the freedom to make choices but we are naturally programmed to fit in with our environment. If our environment isn’t aligned with our goals, we are less likely to achieve them.
If our fridge and freezer is stocked with cream cakes and puddings, chips and pies, rather than lean meats, fish, fresh fruit and vegetables, what are the chances that we will eat within our calories? Probably not the greatest.
If I go to bed at a reasonable time, set my alarm and leave my kit next to the bed, what are the chances that I will get out for that run at 6.15am? Probably fairly high.
If I know that I snack at work, if I remove all snacking foods from my workspace, what are the chances of reducing my snacking behaviour? Fairly good, I expect.
If I take 5 minutes to prepare a salad for my lunch at work and take it to work, what are the chances that I will resist temptation to go out for a burger instead – pretty high again.
Humans are lazy by nature and we do what is easiest for us, so if we align our environment to our goals, we are more likely to achieve them.
SMART Goal ideas
- Lose 2 stones by April
- Be able to run 5k by April
- Reduce cholesterol to less than 5 by Easter
- Reverse diabetes by my summer holiday
- Be able to plank for 5 minutes by the end of February
- Achieve healthy BMI status by the end of the year
- Reduce Blood pressure to healthy range by June
- Take part in an obstacle/mud event in September
- Complete the Be Strong Route 66 event in May
- Complete a 1 mile open water swim in August
- Walk Hadrian’s wall in September
This week, we want you to have a really good think about what your SMART goal could be, and how you might achieve it. Write it down and make it SMART!! Then next week we will focus on how to make that goal a reality with a perfect plan.