Whether it’s in the office, gym, or at home, we all have goals, big or small things we want to achieve, reach or do. Wellness is a particularly goal-orientated part of life, with many common resolutions revolving around increasing fitness, managing weight, quitting bad habits, or picking up good ones—however, it’s easier said than done. To find out more about how to successfully go about goal setting, we spoke with Sam Miller, head nutritionist at Pure Fitness, to find out the best way to set goals and actually achieve them.
What is goal setting?
“Goal setting is an effective way of realising your targets, be it with health, fitness, nutrition, or life in general,” says Sam. “It allows you to commit to a target, visualise an end goal and set achievable steps to get there.” When you want to achieve something, considering ways to get there and adjusting your behaviour in a structured way is helpful.
What are some of the challenges to goal setting?
One of the most important things with goal setting is being realistic—if you’ve never run before, don’t say you’re going to run a marathon in four weeks time. Another problem Sam sees often is inconsistency: “A sure-fire way to never achieving your goals is ‘flip-flopping’ between goals. I see it a lot with clients: one week you are concentrating on fat loss, next it’s muscle gain, then it goes back to fat loss and the cycle continues. If you’re serious about wanting to achieve your goals, decide what is most important to you and then focus all of your efforts on that.”
Often, when we set goals, our phrasing, outline or method is too vague: “I hear things like, ‘I want to eat healthier foods’, but while this is an admirable goal it is very general and lacks specificity,” says Sam. “It gives you a general direction to head in but doesn’t give any detail of how you will get there and there is no way of measuring your success. This is where it becomes important to implement new behaviours and actions that are going to get you to your goals.”
What is the best way to set goals?
There are five important elements for goal setting to ensure that you are successful, explains Sam. “Setting S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) can be an effective way to make sure you are making progress towards your primary goals.” Track your goals and have regular check-ins with yourself—find someone to hold you accountable, or keep a wellness journal to monitor your progress.
What does a ‘S.M.A.R.T’ goal look like?
Applying the five elements mentioned above, you can create a plan towards achieving your goal. “Let’s say for example that the most important goal for you to achieve at this moment in time is to ‘eat healthier foods’,” says Sam. “This is your ‘primary goal’, but it’s very general. It’s time to start implementing smaller, actionable targets to help you towards your primary goal; like so—”
- Specific: Having two servings of vegetables with dinner is a specific action/behaviour to carry out.
- Measurable: You can visually measure or see that you have two servings of vegetables on your plate. Make sure you know what a serving is (80g).
- Achievable: Ask yourself, ‘can I achieve this goal?’. S.M.A.R.T goals should be challenging enough to actually make a difference, but not so challenging that you cannot achieve them. If you are not 90% confident that you can achieve this goal, pick an easier S.M.A.R.T goal to work towards—in this example, having one serving of vegetables with dinner.
- Relevant: Eating more vegetables is relevant to your primary goal of eating healthier food, plus eating more vegetables will fill you up to prevent you eating other, unhealthier foods.
- Timely: Spell out when you want to have achieved this goal by. It could be ‘in four weeks-time I want to be consistently having two servings of vegetables with my dinner each night’.
Is there a way to make goal setting easier?
Ensuring you have a positive and supportive network around you can be key for successfully setting and achieving goals. You may want to have someone—a friend, partner, or a professional like a dietician or personal trainer—to hold you accountable to your goal. “Sometimes changing your environment can make achieving your S.M.A.R.T goals easier,” says Sam. For instance, if your goal was to be fitter, joining a gym or sports team would be a new environment and support network.
Another important element of sticking to goals more easily is preparation: “By reducing friction, to a new habit we are far more likely to achieve and maintain it. If your goal is to have two extra servings of vegetables with dinner each night, make sure you have the foods available to you every night.”
What do I do once I complete my first S.M.A.R.T goal?
First of all, enjoy it. Reaching any goal, big or small, is a great achievement and one that requires dedication and commitment. “Once you have completed your first S.M.A.R.T goal and are able to maintain your new action or behaviour, you can start to layer more S.M.A.R.T goals to help you towards your primary goals.” Stay motivated, and make sure you have positive reinforcement for reaching your goals.
Learn more about goal setting for nutrition and fitness goals with Pure: pure-fitness.com