If You Want Real Change, Start with SMART Goals

smart goalsAvoid inflammatory, processed foods. Get plenty of sleep. Move your body on a regular basis. It’s the trifecta of good health. But if this was everything you needed to know, we’d all be metabolically flexible with rock-hard abs and proper blood sugar levels.

That’s because knowing what to do and how to do it are two entirely different things.

Too often, I’ll get messages from new clients saying they’re ready to drop all carbs, get better sleep, start intermittent fasting, cut out fast food, buy blue blockers for everyone in their family, workout more…

In other words, they’re all in.

You’d think I’d be super psyched about their level of motivation. But to me, it means they need help reeling it in. My job as a health coach is to show people how to get from point A to point B, and having broad, sweeping goals with no clear direction doesn’t work. Ever.

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How to Make Goals Achievable

To really succeed, you’ve got to know what you’re changing and how to measure your success. Want to sleep more? Eat more veggies? Exercise more? Yep, me too. But real goal setting requires getting smart about it. And that’s where SMART goals come in. Originally credited to Peter Drucker in his 1954 book, The Practice of Management as well as George Doran and Dr. Edwin Lock, and used by everyone from professors to Primal Health Coaches, SMART is an acronym that stands for:

Specific. What specifically do want to achieve?
Measurable. How will you quantify your results?
Attainable. Do you have the tools to make this happen?
Relevant. Does this goal align with your lifestyle?
Timely. What’s your deadline on this goal?

NOTE: If you’ve seen different versions of this, just know that there are a few different variations out there. Sometimes the ‘S’ stands for significant or simple, the ‘M’ for meaningful or motivating, the ‘A’ for achievable or agreed upon, the ‘R’ for realistic or results-based, and the ‘T’ for time-sensitive or time-based.

Examples of SMART Goals

Want a better night’s sleep? Your SMART goal might be:

S: To get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
M: I’ll use a sleep tracking app to measure my progress.
A: I’ll wear my blue blockers for any screen time in the evenings.
R: Being in bed by 9:30pm is doable for me.
T: Every night until my vacation in the fall.

Want to work out more? Try:

S: I will walk 3 miles every morning.
M: I’ll track it with my Garmin.
A: GPS watch? Check. New sneakers? Check.
R: I have to walk my dog in the morning anyway, so this works.
T: For the next 4 weeks.

Remember, SMART goals are designed to be quantifiable and have a defined end point, which helps you get clear about what you’re doing to reach that goal and how you’ll know if you’re successful or not. For example, in a 2005 study,

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