Updated: Jan 5
If you're on Instagram, you've seen the barrage of hashtags with accompanying photos: #bodygoals, #squadgoals, #hairgoals, #relationshipgoals... all the #goals. You may have even jumped on the bandwagon and posted your own or admired others' "goals". (I have.) And even when they are done in vain, so long as the intent is no intent, there's no harm, no foul. But what happens when you set a goal that you truly want to achieve and don't meet it?
A goal without a plan is just a wish. A former boss of mine use to say this almost on the daily. It was his way of playfully poking at my project management, mixed with type-A personality, acumen. Every account I directed had goals with clearly delineated objectives; and each objective had its own set of milestone markers with tasks and timelines. I even applied these project management principles to my wedding planning - and our wedding went off with only one hitch. (Come on! Let me have just one cornball pun.)
Applying similar project management principles to your personal life and wellbeing may sound over the top for most, but properly setting goals and attaining them is so good for your health. Let me explain by skipping ahead to good stuff: achievement.
Every time we achieve a goal we have set for ourselves, we raise our self-efficacy. #Selfefficacy is a person's belief in her/his ability to carry out actions, i.e. #behaviors to succeed in prospective situations. It is the underpinning of motivation and emotional wellbeing. Without this belief in oneself, there is little incentive to want to perform actions or "rise to the occasion" when adversity presents itself. So, the more often you achieve your goals, the more you increase your self-efficacy, which in turn gives you the oomph to set more goals... and the cycle continues.
The secret sauce to self-efficacy is not in the goals we set, but in our #confidence that we will achieve the goals we have set. All too often we set lofty goals for ourselves, and not meeting them can really decrease your self-efficacy and subsequently diminish any motivation you had. When setting goals, it's best to rate your confidence of achieving that goal on a scale of 1-10. If your confidence level is lower than a 7, you may want to scale back your goal or reconsider it altogether. For example, if your goal is to walk for 45 minutes a day, 7 days a week, but you're only 50% (5 out of 10) confident you'll achieve this, you should reduce the number of days and/or the number of minutes per day to something more #realistic. Only you know what is #achievable for yourself and #relevant to your situation and your circumstances; so be honest with yourself and choose your goals wisely (cue second pun), which brings me to the #SMARTgoals framework.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Using the example above, let's apply the #SMART goals framework to further flesh out this goal:
Specific: increase my walking [outside] by two additional days a week
Measurable: 40 minutes a day, 5 days a week
Achievable: confidence rating 8/10
Realistic: walkable neighborhood, daughter back in preschool, great walking shoes
Time bound: start today, maintain through June
While I gave an example of a health-related goal, keep in mind that any goal set properly and attained will benefit your health and well-being, because improved self-efficacy means increased confidence means more motivation means increase in positive behaviors means healthier lifestyle. (Sorry writing teachers: total run-on sentence.)
Lastly, know your "why". I want to walk more because it boosts my mood, burns excess calories, allows me to get fresh air literally and figuratively, and improves my sleeping. When we set goals in vain (read: body goals) our why is vain, and vanity is short-lived. Replace: "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels" with "nothing tastes as good as healthy feels" and I can vibe with you. Now GOal get it! (I even cringed at that one.)
In good health,