2015 is here...pretty amazing, huh? ...and being that so many of us determine, swear, commit, to making goals come the new year, particularly those that revolve around health, weight and discipline, this article is all about a new way of setting goals. Even if you have no resolutions that center around health, this method of goal setting will help you in any goals you have for 2015 and will help the goals become more than passing thoughts.

But back to health since a large majority of health goals happen around about now. Just existing from Halloween to New Years Eve when trying to make healthy food choices is an uphill battle. There's just a tsunami of the bad stuff around during those months. Even those of us who teach others how to be healthy are not immune to the deluge of treats that make numerous appearances from October 31st to January 1st. Therefore, I look forward to the fresh slate that January 1st brings.

Have you made some resolutions in the past that lasted just a few weeks and left you at the same place you started with your health?  Maybe you’re feeling frustrated and demotivated. If this sounds like you, it's time to take a more detailed and specific approach to setting goals this year.

I’m going to teach you how to effectively set goals for the new year, so that you can achieve the health and vitality you’re seeking!

Sign Up for E-News

Setting “SMART” health goals is a great way to keep yourself on track for 2015. SMART goals are defined as: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

S is for Specific

One of the first things I do with my one-on-one clients is to set specific, objective health goals that we can keep track of as time goes on. Many of my clients come to me with vague goals such as “I want to conquer constipation” or “I want to lose weight.” While these big goals will be a major part of the plan we put together, there's nothing specific about them and  they become difficult to keep track of as time goes on.

I work with my clients to develop objective goals that describe their original vague goal in far more detail. For example, instead of setting a goal to “get rid of constipation ”, you can set a goal of 1-2 well formed bowel movements per day. Or instead of saying your goal is to lose weight, your goal could be to reach a specific body fat % range, such as 20-25% for women or 14-17% for men.

Specific goals should also be action-oriented, and it’s helpful to have some understanding of how you will reach your goal. To meet the above health goals, perhaps you have one or two action goals to go along with them, such as eating one serving of fermented foods daily, or adding in 2 sessions of burst training to your weekly workout routine. Knowing exactly how you will work towards your goal helps you make the necessary changes that can keep you moving in the right direction in a sustainable way.

M is for Measurable

You might have noticed that the two health goals I reworded both used numbers in them (1-2 bowel movements, exact BF% numbers). While your goals don’t absolutely need to contain a number, they should be trackable in some way. The reason for this is because if a goal isn't measurable, you won’t really be able to tell if you’ve accomplished it, or even if you’re heading in the right direction.

Setting a measurable outcome will tell you if you are progressing, and by measuring where you’ve started, you can look back in a couple weeks or months and see how far you’ve come. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had that completely forgot about certain improvements in their health until I reminded them about where they’d started! Knowing how far you’ve come can help you keep track, and alternatively, if you see that you’re not progressing, you can change course and adjust your daily behaviors as necessary to get you keep you on track with your goals.

A is for Attainable

There is a fine line between a goal that is attainable and not attainable, and it’s good to set goals that are challenging but not impossible to accomplish. “Shooting for the stars” is a sweet thought, but when it comes to achieving your goals, it’s better to start with something that is in the realm of feasibility. The goal needs to be realistic.

Sometimes it helps to get a second opinion about your goal to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure. For example, with my weight loss clients, I take several factors into account when helping them decide on a goal weight , including their weight history, age, gender, medical issues, and personal preferences. While there are standard “ideal weights” that can be calculated, I find that most people are better off setting goal weights that make sense for them and that won’t leave them with low self esteem if they can’t achieve the goal.

If I have a client who is 100 pounds overweight, I’m happy to set an ideal weight goal that is 20 pounds heavier than their calculated “ideal”, as this is likely far more attainable and possibly even a healthier goal based on their unique challenges. 

This doesn’t just go for weight loss. Any goal you set must be reasonably attainable, even if it’s a challenging goal to reach. Perhaps running a 5K would be a challenging but doable fitness goal for you, whereas running a marathon would not. Be realistic about your abilities, but also maintain a positive outlook so that you are not selling yourself short and settling for easily achieved goals. 

R is for Relevant

In order to maintain your focus and dedication, you need to choose a goal that really matters to you. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you're internally motivated to make it happen. Don't set a goal to please someone else!

Your action goals also need to be results oriented, or relevant to the ultimate health goal you’ve set for yourself. For example, if your goal is better digestion, it doesn’t make sense to set an action goal of running 5 miles per week. A more relevant action goal would be to commit to using digestive enzymes before every meal for 30 days. Whatever your action goal is, there should be reasonable evidence that this action would move you towards your ultimate goal.

Be very clear about what you want to accomplish and why you want to accomplish it. Consider sitting down for 20-30 minutes and writing down all the reasons you want to accomplish each goal you’re planning on setting. Not only can that help motivate you as you get started, but it can also provide clarity about whether or not the goal is even worth setting in the first place!

T is for Time-Bound

There are many different ways to ground your goals within a specific time frame. For example, you can give them a target date that you want a goal to happen by. You can also break the goal into time-based steps. For example, what do you want to see happen 1 week from now? What about 1 month from now? Or 1 year from now? Setting smaller step-by-step goals across a defined period of time can help keep you motivated with small “wins” and will allow you to evaluate your progress towards the greater goal.

You can also use time as a recurring event when setting an action goal. For example, maybe your goal is to attend a yoga class every Tuesday for the next 3 months. Not only do you have a duration of the goal (3 months) but you have a specific day of the week (Tuesday) that your action goal takes place on. 

After you’ve set your SMART goals, identify any habits that may be holding you back. All of us are prone to self-sabotaging behaviors now and then. No one is perfect! But some people are more prone than others to struggling with self-discipline and behavior change.

Support from family and friends can also help you stay focused and motivated over time. Letting other people know your goals is a great form of accountability. 

Don’t Give Up!

Smart goal setting is a HUGE step in the right direction but actually making the changes that you want takes time and commitment. Just remember that no one is perfect – not even those of us who teach others how to be healthy. Expect to have occasional bumps in the road. Be kind to yourself and stay in the game.

One of the best things I can share (based on experience with my clients and in my own life) about staying in the game is what I call "getting back on the wagon" or, in other words, not letting one slip up (dish of ice cream anyone?) lead to the next and the next and the next one. Over the long haul, the MOST SUCCESFUL people are NOT the ones who do everything perfect, but those who CONTINUE TO WANT TO DO WELL.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of changing your health, instead of panicking or giving up, get help! Working with a nutritionist,health coach, psychologist, or other health professional who is 100% behind your success can make a huge difference in your ability to stay on track with your goals. 

The guidance, compassion, and accountability you can get from a health professional may be the missing piece that takes you to the next level in your health and wellness this year.

Here’s your chance to practice setting achievable goals: Comment on this article and tell me ONE of your goals for the new year, and write the goal in a way that follows the SMART format. I’ll give you some feedback to help make sure you’re hitting all 5 of the SMART goal parameters. 

So there you have it, information on how to do your goals differently this year. Happy New Year and get writing, smart-style!