Thursday, August 26, 2010


Goal setting is very important when it comes to changing behavior.  There are good ways to set goals and there are not so good ways.  As a dietitian I often try to encourage patients/clients to set goals in order to help them lose weight, control their blood glucose, or just eat healthier.  Many books give the example of SMART goals as the best way for people to change their behavior.  SMART goals are:
Action based

Instead of setting the goal to "eat more fruits and vegetables" a SMART goal would state:
"I will eat at least 1 fruit or vegetable with each meal 4 days a week."
"I will ask for a side salad instead of french fries when I eat at restaurants."
"I will choose a fruit or vegetable for snacks instead of granola bars and crackers while at work."

Sometimes you might have to do a little research in order to create a SMART goal.  Maybe you want to loose 20 pounds before your class reunion, but it's only 10 days away.  This is not realistic or timely.  So  change your goal to Losing 2 pounds before your class reunion by getting 30 minutes of physical activity each day before the party.  Then, if losing the remaining 18 pounds is still important, learn about other healthy ways to lose the weight by talking with a dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or reading reliable books and articles.

Of course the next step is to keep yourself accountable in meeting your goals.  It's easy to cheat on goals when you do not track them.  One of the best ways to do this is by using a chart or log book.  I recently set the goal to meet more people at work and be more personable.  I tend to clam up a bit when first meeting people, and don't consider myself a great conversationalist.  So to break out of my shell I set several small goals that were all related to my big broad goal:
1. Smile at every person I see in the hallway at work.
2. Say 'Hello' to as many people as I can.
3. Have at least one non work related conversation with someone each day I'm at work.

Currently I only work part time, so I created a chart with slots for each day I work and lasting 6 weeks.  Each day that I met my goals I put a sticker in that slot. (Yes, those are fruit stickers)

It's also important to reward yourself for meeting your goals.  I've been wanting a Vera Bradley bag for about 2 years now and decided this would be my reward, especially when I found out that the bag I wanted was 1/2 price.  I bought it early, and Ryan hid it from me so I wouldn't be tempted to open the box.  I met my six week goal on Monday and found my new messenger bag hidden in a suitcase in our closet.
 This brings me to a second point about holding yourself accountable.  Many people find it helpful to have a "cheer leader."  Some one who can help encourage you if you are having difficulty staying motivated, or someone to report your successes to.  Many days after work during dinner, Ryan would ask me who I talked to and what we talked about.  It's also important to be honest with yourself.  If you do not meet your goal for a day, don't give yourself credit for it.  This happened to me one day, so I got an X in my box instead of a sticker and then added an extra day at the end.  However, don't give up!  Setbacks happen, but they do not mean failure.  If you do not meet your goal for a day or two; regroup and remind yourself of the why goal is important, talk to your support person, and get back on track.  This may happen several times, and that's ok as long as you learn from your mistakes and continue to make progress.  On days I was having difficulty thinking of good conversation starters I imagined my friend Lucy who is very friendly and never seems to have difficulty talking to new people.  Actually, during my internship we would joke about how she was always coming home from the grocery store or coffee house having made a new friend.

The best part about setting goals, is that they will slowly become habit.  I found myself wanting to talk to more people even on my days off.  While running errands around town I tried chatting up the grocery store cashier, meeting new people at the gym, and even conversing with our waiter whenever Ryan and I went out to dinner.

So the next time you want to change your life, or just a small area of it; try setting a SMART goal and reach for the stars!

1 comment:

  1. A simple and free tool that is available to set goals is www.SMARTGoals.Me its a facebook app that allows you to get your friends to be your goal buddy like a gym buddy. Just like in a gym when you have someone watching you, you tend to work out harder. The same concept with someone watching your goals, hopefully you achieve them.