Goal-setting the smart way

Can you believe it’s the end of the year?? The time for fresh starts and the unofficial beginning of the “New Year, New Me” mindset.  Most people set goals or intentions for how they want their new year to go, although many of us will not follow through with these things we want to do. One health app, Strava, found that on average its users ended up giving up on their goal by January 19th. There are lots of reasons why we might stop trying. Maybe changes weren’t happening fast enough. It’s possible you didn’t have any additional support when you needed it, or you just didn’t enjoy what it is you were doing. Or you may have let doubt creep in and make you feel like what you wanted wasn’t achievable. Whatever it is, our goal here at New Leaf Nutrition is to provide support throughout your health and wellness journey. 

Our clients have likely heard some of the things I’ll cover in this post. No matter the time of year, we try our best to help you be successful! So since you can’t, unfortunately, shrink your RD down and keep us in your pocket all the time, here are some tips that you can do on your own to set yourself up for goal-setting success.

Variety of vitamins and supplements on a countertop next to a row of cut limes

One important acronym to remember is: SMART. All goals should be SMART goals. Meaning, they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Ask yourself, what exactly do you want to accomplish? How are you going to be able to measure it? Is this a realistic goal? If you can’t realistically see yourself doing it yet, think about ways to split the goal up into shorter term goals that will eventually lead to the overall goal. Why exactly do you want to accomplish this – what is your motivation? Lastly when will this be accomplished? Be specific with the time frame! 

Using these principles to guide your goal creation will let you be more detailed with your goal rather than having something vague like, “I want to be more active.” Being active is a very general statement that can look like many different things. A SMART goal would look more like “For the next 2 months, I would like to do a 30 minute bike ride 3 days per week.”

Creating the goal is just one piece of the puzzle. The other tricky part is actually sticking with it. There are a few ways that we can set ourselves up to succeed with this part.

1. Write the goal down. Whether that’s on a piece of paper or in the notes app on your phone, write it somewhere you will see it often. 

2. Figure out where your barriers are. What are things in your life that will make it harder for you to stick with your goal? Many things in life are unavoidable, but if there are any big things that you can predict ahead of time, it’s best to go ahead and address them before they become an issue. For example, if you know that your kids have soccer practice three nights a week starting next month, it may not be feasible for you to get in a full 5 days of exercise after work. Instead, adjust your goal to something more realistic like 3 or 4 nights per week. 

3. Find ways to be accountable. Some people like to share their goal with others so that they have someone else to be accountable to. Others like to journal their thoughts so they can stay accountable to themselves. 

4. Make sure you challenge yourself. You don’t want goals to be unattainable, but you also don’t want them to be too easy. If you strictly stay within your comfort zone, it can take even longer to reach our long-term goals.

Also, remember this: goal setting is very individualized. There’s no “one size fits all.” You won’t be able to set the exact same goals as every person you know and expect to see success. What works for one person, won’t always work for everyone else. Find what is best for you, and you will find that your goals are much more achievable!

-Alex Harris, MA, RD, LD, CPT

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