Got goals? We all do! Unfortunately, what's less common is actually following through with the proper steps to achieve them. Research shows that 92% of goal-setters never put in the time, dedication, or work to accomplish what they've set out to do, setting themselves up for failure rather than success. The good news is that you don't have to be one of them.
If you're focused on shedding some pounds and developing a healthier lifestyle, or achieving any other goal, we've compiled a few of the best ways to succeed below, focusing specifically on a system called SMART — specific, measurable, actionable, risky, and time-keyed — to figure out the what, where, how, why, and when of what you want to accomplish.
Remember: even if it takes a while, and even if it requires more effort than you thought, it's fully possible to succeed!
1. Make Your Goals Specific
Rather than focusing on a broad objective that can easily become too ambiguous to measure or target, set very specific goals to help you achieve exactly what you're envisioning. When it comes to weight loss, or cultivating a healthy lifestyle, think about what you're most excited to accomplish. Are your goals centered around succeeding with a diet, such as keto? Are they fitness-driven? Are you interested in introducing more healthy foods to your diet?
Bottom line: figure out the "what" of your goal, so you can take more definitive steps toward achieving it. You can also build out the rest of your SMART plan during this stage, since those details will also need to be specific.
For example: Eat 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables per day, and limit red meat to once per week, for exactly one year (record date here) to lower my cholesterol and consume a more well-balanced diet.
2. Make Your Goals Measurable
A strong goal should also be measurable, which means that you can easily track your progress to see how far you've come. Being able to track what you've accomplished will provide a motivational boost to keep you going when you start to doubt yourself — and you will occasionally feel like giving up, so don't underestimate recording incremental progress.
There are several great ways you can track your progress. If your goal is weight loss, you may be using a calorie-counting app, where you can keep food journals of what you ate, how many calories the item was, etc. The simple act of recording healthy choices is likely to give you some extra motivation to continue making healthy choices, because the "records" show that you've been capable of doing so thus far!
If your goal is fitness-oriented — perhaps you're incorporating more strength exercises into your daily regimen, or you're aiming to increase your running time — keeping a calendar or schedule of which days you'll perform which activities can also help you stay on track.
3. Make Your Goals Actionable
Whatever your goal is, it should be written in such a way that it is an action verb to increase the odds of execution. For instance, words such as "run, climb, lift, quit, finish" are all things you can strive for, as opposed to terminology that's more reflective of your current state ("am, be, have").
This may seem like a small thing, but seeing an action you want to accomplish in writing can substantially boost your odds of success, making you that much more likely to follow through.
4. Make Your Goals Risky, but Realistic
Muhammad Ali once said, "If your dreams don't scare you, they aren't big enough."
By definition, a goal should be something that forces you outside your comfort zone to be something or achieve something brand new. A goal is a dream you have to make your life all that it can be — to make yourself all that you can be.
That said, it's important to strive for goals that are actually feasible. They should be realistic for your age, health conditions, and current lifestyle, so that you're setting yourself up for success rather than failure. This may mean breaking down a larger goal into monthly or annual increments to gradually change your lifestyle habits over a more reasonable amount of time, or it may mean simply adjusting your goals to reflect what's possible.
Achieving a risky but realistic goal will be worth every hurdle you face to make it happen!
5. Make Your Goals Time-Keyed
If you don't set a start or end date for your goal, you're much more likely to veer off-course throughout your journey. After all, doesn't it help you stay on track when you're meeting a deadline?
If your goal involves lowering your blood pressure, reducing your weight, or increasing your fitness, a great way to meet your deadline is by consistently tracking your progress, as stated in the "measurable" step above. Goal-tracking will enable you to get a feel for where you are on your journey, and will challenge you to step it up if you feel yourself slipping before your end date.
Be sure to set your own "deadline," and treat it as professionally as you would a project for a client, or for school. Your own expectations of yourself matter just as much, if not more than anyone else's.
A final word
Following SMART is a fantastic way to make and accomplish your goals; however, going a step beyond this, it can be highly beneficial to look beyond yourself for support. Research shows that allowing others to encourage you, motivate you, and hold you accountable can increase your odds of attaining your objectives by up to 95%. This might mean something as simple as letting your spouse or best friend know what you're striving for in your life, or it may mean something a bit more formal, like joining an online community where others are committed to similar goals.
Reading about the success of others can also be highly motivational in keeping the faith on your own path, such as this woman's weight loss journey to establish a healthier lifestyle and climb a mountain!
No matter what, hold onto your goals and dreams, and never stop pursuing them, even if you encounter a setback or two. Tomorrow's a new day!
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