In the counseling field, there is a concept known as S.M.A.R.T. goals- an appropriately named acronym for goal-setting that sets parameters for how to create goals that set you up for success. Unlike grand-scale New Year’s Resolutions, these goals are both attainable and sustainable. So let’s break down this acronym:
S: Specific – When you set a goal, it should be as specific as possible. Let’s take, for example, the goal of getting in shape. This may be your goal, but it is certainly not specific. To add specificity, we need details- what specific exercise will you be doing? How often? When?
M: Measurable – How will we know when the goal is obtained? “Getting into shape” is subjective, so to measure results we need some additional parameters. Maybe you want to be able to jog 2 miles, lift a certain amount of weight, or lose a certain number of pounds–all of these are examples of measurable outcomes.
A: Achievable – This is a big one. If you can’t afford a gym membership and have no access to weights, then setting a weightlifting goal is not achievable. Similarly, a goal of working out 7 days per week for 1 hour may be unrealistic– especially if you are just starting to exercise. If you’re not sure that you will be able to achieve the goal, scale it back or alter it to make it more doable.
R: Relevant – If you just sustained a knee injury, this may not be the right time to set an exercise goal. Or perhaps it would be more important and meaningful for you to spend your time on a different goal, such as making dietary changes or practicing self-care. Asking yourself about the relevance of the goal will help gauge your commitment to making to happen.
T: Time-Bound – This portion sets specific time limitations, such as when you would begin, how much time you would devote and when you would devote that time. It may also include an end-date (for example, I will work on push-ups for one month).
While these concepts may seem obvious, many of us are guilty of setting lofty, unrealistic goals for ourselves and then feeling badly when we are unable to attain them. Following these simple principles of goal-setting allows you to create a realistic plan of attack.
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Written by Joanna Aslanian, LPC, ATR-P