A goal is essentially a mental representation of an outcome we desire. Simply put, a goal is the “destination”.
If a goal is the destination, then goal setting is a means of planning the journey to get there. It is our ability to identify the process we need to follow to achieve a specific goal; setting ourselves smaller goals along the way or checkpoints for which we can mark our progress can be helpful too.
Why is goal setting important though?
Motivation is a wonderful thing yet numerous studies have shown that intention to change does not always lead to achievement of a desired goal.
This is also referred to as the "intention-behaviour" gap; we know we want to achieve something, yet we fail to do so. Why is that? Well, we tend to fail to identify “how” we get there.
So, what’s the best method of creating this “roadmap” to get to our destination? Well, it involves using our brains and getting S.M.A.R.T with it…
What are SMART goals?
SMART goals have long been a staple of effective goal setting. The acronym SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
This system breaks down the goal into smaller and more manageable chunks, making it easier to achieve. So how can we apply SMART to our goals for 2022?
Well, let’s say you want to save up for a holiday. Your specific goal may be to save $2000 in the next 12 months. That’s measurable - you know exactly how much you need to save. It’s also achievable - if you put away $167 per month, you will have saved the target amount. It’s realistic too - it's an amount that is feasibly achieveable given your present circumstances. Finally, it’s time-bound - you have a definite goal to work towards.
Breaking your goals down into SMART chunks makes them easier to achieve, and also helps you stay on track.
But what if you’re struggling to come up with specific goals? In that case, there are some general SMART goals that can be applied to most areas of your life:
- To be in better shape physically, set a goal to exercise for a certain number of days each week or month.
- To improve your finances, set a goal to save a certain percentage of your income each month or year.
- To read more books, set a goal to read for a certain number of hours each week.
What does science say about SMART goals in practice?
Weight loss and long term weight management
Weight management is one of the most complex and difficult issues we face (at an individual and public health level). It’s one of the aspects of our life which many of us struggle with, be it weight loss, gain or management.
S.M.A.R.T principles have been highly successful in helping people achieve successful weight management. An important note to make is that not only are they able to more successfully lose weight, but also keep that weight off long term.
Achieving your exercise goals
We all know a bit of extra movement now and again would be incredibly good for us, yet it can be a real struggle to consistently achieve the recommended amount of exercise.
Knowing what we do now, we realize that very often these intentions fail due to poor goal setting strategies; being unrealistic, lacking specificity, no real way of monitoring change and no focused time attachment.
Establishing healthy habits and living a healthier lifestyle
Healthy lifestyles are more than just what you’re eating and your exercise; it's also how you take care of your mental health, having a social network and having a fulfilling career / finding your purpose in life.
When applied, S.M.A.R.T principles have been an excellent tool to help people achieve adequate exercise and improve the overall health of their diets. Studies have also shown that this form of goal setting has helped individuals adhere to behaviours that improve their mental health.
2022 is just around the corner. It's always a good time to focus on what you'd like to achieve in the coming year, especially if you want to be successful and achieve progress.
SMART goals are one of the most effective techniques for setting yourself up with a plan for both short and long term success.
If you want to start planning for 2022 and setting your SMART goals then check out our free to download SMART goal setting worksheet.
You can check out our other free resouces here;
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