I had the privilege of sharing lunch with three of my social work colleagues from graduate school yesterday, and the topic of New Year's Resolutions came up (I can hear the collective grumble from my readers now...don't worry, I'm in the same boat).
Why the grumbling? We all know the drill...January 1st rolls around...it's a New Year, New You...for the first two weeks anyway...then it's back to status quo. Not all the time, but many times. Why does this happen?
Many people often set their sights very high, and as a result, do not meet their intended goals. This is a huge disappointment for most, but it doesn't have to be!
I wanted to get a little bit "therapist/social workey" on you for this post, and share my knowledge about effective goal setting.
A large portion of my past jobs have included goal setting with clients (usually called a Treatment Plan or Service Plan). We utilize these to ensure that clients are making the progress they would like to make during their treatment, and to measure and document their progress as a therapist to ensure that the methods we're using are in fact effective.
I owe this knowledge to many previous jobs, professors, mentors/supervisors, and probably textbooks, so I'm not sure who to exactly credit (and a quick Google search revealed that there's much debate to who exactly originated the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting concept), I'll just credit the profession of social work as a whole, and make it clear that this is not something I came up with myself (I wish!!!)...I'm just passing it on to you :)
|Image courtesy of christopherwatts.posterous.com|
Goals should be:
Be as specific as possible with your goal. If you want to lose weight, how much? By when? How? Do you belong to a gym already?
"Lose 10 pounds by March 15th by joining the YMCA and exercising 1 hour 5 times per week and not eating after 7pm 7 days per week."
You might even want to include the specific days you will exercise and what type of exercise will look like: Mine would say, "Attend Swim Fitness class Mon, Wed, Fri 9-10am, and Boot Camp Tues, Thurs 6-7pm."
You need to know what you're working toward. How will you know you've met your goal? I have set my goal to be met by March 15. By March 15, I should have lost the 10 pounds.
"Weigh myself every Wednesday at 7am and record weight loss progress."
This will assist me with feeling productive and holding myself accountable. It can also help me to reassess my goal if I realize I am not on track to meet my goal and I can make adjustments as needed.
If you tend to be an impatient individual (like me) and 3 1/2 months seems like an eternity to see your goal met, set some smaller goals to get to the final goal.
"Lose 1 pound/2 pounds within the first 2 weeks, etc."
"Prepare ahead of time and eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day to prevent feeling hungry and eating unhealthy or seemingly more convenient options."
Your goal also needs to be something you are motivated to actually achieve. If you set a goal to lose weight because you think that others will be happier with you, but you don't really care one way or another, you're probably not going to stick with the goal. Make sure you want to meet the goal!
This is where many of us get ourselves tied up. Is a 10-pound weight loss realistic and attainable within the next 3 1/2 months? Maybe not. If I know this isn't something I'll be able to achieve, I've already set myself up for failure. I may need to reassess. What is something that I can for sure achieve?
Why is it important to set attainable goals? Because when our goals are unrealistic, we get overwhelmed and throw the towel in. Set small, achievable goals. You can always increase the "difficulty" of the goal as you progress.
When will you meet your goal? In my example, I will know I've met my goal if I have lost 10 pounds by March 15, 2011. Like I said, I might want to even break this large goal into smaller ones, like losing 1/2 to 1 pound every week for the next 14 weeks.
Let's evaluate my goal one more time:
*SPECIFIC: "Lose 10 pounds by March 15th by joining the YMCA and exercising 1 hour 5 times per week and not eating after 7pm 7 days per week." *MEASURABLE: I will know if I'm making progress on my goal by weighing myself weekly.
*ATTAINABLE: I have set smaller goals, such as losing 1/2 lb to 1 lb per week for the next 14 weeks (obviously I'll need to lose more than 1/2 lb per week to meet my goal). I am also deeply committed to this goal, because I know that I feel great with the weight I have already lost in the past 12 weeks (almost 10 pounds!)
*REALISTIC: I have determined that 3 1/2 months seems to be a reasonable amount of time to lose 10 pounds for me, based on prior experience.
*TIME-BASED: I will know if I've met my goal if I have lost 10 pounds by March 15, 2011.
This is pretty hideous looking, and I know I have a better official one from a past job, but I can't locate it on my computer. But here is a rough idea of how you can use a chart to set realistic goals (this is not how a treatment plan would look at all, it's much more detailed and professional looking, but it gives you an idea of something you can create for yourself):
Get S.M.A.R.T., Busygals, and meet your goals!