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It's far too common to hear our friends say “I’m going to exercise every day,” or “In the New Year, I’m going to give up sugar.” Movies have supported this way of thinking in regards to setting goals that will magically occur in the New Year with little to no plan of execution to make them happen. We see it in Hallmark movies, in television shows, within our friend group and our family. We have become creatures of habit when it comes to creating ambitious goals for the year ahead, but we fail to create the more important plan for how we plan to make it happen or execute them. Now, there is nothing wrong with having a grand goal, the challenge is breaking it down into bite-sized goals and tasks that move you closer to the end goal. In today’s blog post, we are going to be sharing our favourite tips for creating and maintaining habits for a lifetime! 

S.M.A.R.T is a commonly used abbreviation to define the parameters of how to set achievable goals. In order to accomplish a goal, it needs to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and be set within a Time Frame

Specificity refers to choosing something that is detailed, has a pathway to accomplished and daily, actionable steps that move you in a linear pathway towards the goal. Choosing vague goals such as, “I want to become a runner,” leaves too much room for imagination. A better goal would be, “I want to improve my cardiovascular endurance with running. I want to run an average of 20 kilometres per week, and will accomplish the goal by running roughly 3 kilometres daily or four 5 kilometer runs.” The level of specificity with this goal keeps you accountable because you have a figurative goal and deadlines for when you need to have logged your mileage. 

Measurability of your goal is the second component of setting smart goals. With vague goals, it’s easy to lose motivation because you do not have a way of tracking or measuring your progress. Whereas using an app, a visual aid or a map to track the total kilometres you have run, your brain will interpret this as progress working towards the greater goal, keeping you motivated and on the route towards accomplishing your goal. How you choose to measure your progress is up to you. Some people use a thermometer and fill it in as they inch closer to paying off their car, or raising their fundraising goal or saving towards their house. Others use a map to track the distance they have run to see where they started and where they will finish. The tool you use isn’t the important part, its the action of measuring your progress that counts. 

Achievable. The third component of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. Achievability ultimately boils down to if it is a goal that you can accomplish within a reasonable timeframe. Can you accomplish this goal? Is this a goal that may take 5, 10 or 15 years? Do you need additional training or resources? The achievability of a goal can either keep you on track or derail you completely. Breaking a goal down into smaller, achievable steps is better in the long run as you continuously accomplish goal after goal as you work towards the grander goal. Rather than continuously feeling like you are chasing this unrealistic goal and not making progress towards it. 

Realistic. Is the goal realistic for the time frame, your level of experience, education, level of committment to other things… you get the point. For example, an unrealistic goal would be to get a raise of $20,000 without changing your current work ethic, improving your skills and working to be of better value to your company. A realistic goal would be to say, I want to receive a minimum raise of $5000, but ideally it would be $20,000. I will accomplish this by meeting with my boss every quarter to update them on our projects, ask for feedback and suggestions for how I can improve my work, by enrolling in professional development courses and volunteering on the health and safety committee at work. Towards the end of the fiscal year, I will create a portfolio of the work I have accomplished, the results it has secured for the company, the profit margins and a detailed analysis of how my work has improved compared to the year before. This goal is specific, measurable, achievable and realistic. It compounds the previous three components of S.M.A.R.T. goal setting and leads directly into the last element, setting the goal within a time frame. 

Time Frame. Is the goal set within a reasonable length of time making it realistic for you to achieve? Using the example above, receiving a raise at work takes time. You cannot expect to be rewarded without first putting forth the work. A timeframe allows you to break down the tasks you need to perform in order to accomplish the goal into daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks in order to measure your progress and ensure that you are following your timeline. 

This year, instead of setting numerous goals, focus on creating a theme, or umbrella for the goals you which to accomplish the most. If there is an overlying theme, it will be easier to group smaller goals together and break them down into daily and weekly tasks that will further you towards the end goal. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals rather than many goals this year, use the principles outlined above and you’ll be surprised what you can achieve within the year!

-By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, firefighter-in-training and recipe-wizard with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.