Updated: Feb 2, 2022
It's the first Sunday of 2021, and I have a strong feeling that many New Year's Resolutions have already been broken or tossed aside. Every year we create these lofty goals for ourselves for the new year that are often long forgotten by February 1st.
Why does this happen? Because we often set unrealistic goals for ourselves. We want to make big changes quickly and end up creating overly ambitious goals we can't reach, resulting in failure. So we disregard our resolutions and replace our ambition with an "I'll try again next year" mentality.
But it doesn't have to be this way! What's the solution? Rather than creating broad, unattainable goals, create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals, or SMART Goals.
Create SMART Goals
During the counseling portion of my undergraduate program, we learned about creating SMART Goals, goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
I'll share a SMART Goal of mine for 2021 as an example: I want to drink more water this year to better hydrate my body, so I'm going to drink a full glass of water right after I wake up. I'm going to keep a glass by my bedside table as a reminder.
I want to drink more water this year is too broad of a goal. How much more water? When are you going to drink the water? How do you know if you've met your goal? By establishing how much (a full glass of water) and when (right after I wake up) I'm going to drink the water, I'll know if I've met my goal by breakfast. Additionally, drinking a full glass of water upon waking is a realistic and achievable goal for me. Drinking 5 glasses of water right after waking up might be a realistic goal for someone else, but not for me.
Let's further break down my SMART Goal: I want to drink more water this year to better hydrate my body (broad goal), so I'm going to drink a full glass of water (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic) right after I wake up (specific, timely). I'm going to keep a glass by my bedside table as a reminder (specific, realistic).
Questions to Ask
I'm sure you have your own goals for this year, so I wanted to share a few questions you can ask to determine if your goals are SMART ones.
What am I going to do?
When am I going to do it?
How much/often am I going to do it?
How will I measure if I've met my goal?
Can I see myself doing this every day/week/etc. for the next month/etc.?
Why do I want to do this?
Let's take one more look at my 2021 SMART Goal in light of these questions: I want to drink more water this year to better hydrate my body (why), so I'm going to drink a full glass of water (what) right after I wake up (when). I'm going to keep a glass by my bedside table as a reminder.
I'm motivated to drink a glass of water in the morning because I want to take care of my body and start the day hydrated. I can see myself doing this everyday for the next month, year, and maybe even the rest of my life because it's easy and benefits me.
You now have the tools to create Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals for yourself. If you're still in need of some inspiration, I've got 5 realistic health-promoting goals you can strive for this year. With all of these goals, you have to personalize them and decide what your why is and what's realistic for you. Keep that in mind as you read along.
5 Realistic Ways to Promote Your Health This Year
1. Hydrate well:
SMART Goal: Drink a full glass of water when you wake up before coffee or food. Set an alarm or write it in your planner as a reminder.
2. Eat more fiber:
SMART Goal: Add a serving of vegetables, fruit, or a whole grain to 2 or more meals or snacks per day (to make this more specific and realistic for you, choose what meals/snacks you're going to do this most days: breakfast and lunch, breakfast and snack, lunch and dinner, lunch and snack, breakfast and dinner, dinner and snack).
3. Move your body:
SMART Goal: Choose a form of movement that you enjoy and plan to do it 3-5 times per week (if you're new to exercising/working out, try 2-3 times per week). Write out what you're going to do and when in your planner and/or find a buddy to do it with you.
4. Cook more meals at home:
SMART Goal: Spend 20-30 minutes on Saturday (or day of your choosing) each week to choose 3-5 recipes you want make the following week. Plan and write down the days you will make each recipe, create a grocery list, and purchase what you need.
5. Get better sleep:
SMART Goal: Choose a time you want to wake up every morning. To ensure adequate sleep (7-9 hours), plan to get ready for bed and set aside all electronics 8 1/2 to 9 hours before that time. Set an evening reminder if you need to.