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By Hannah Mosser, MA, LPC

I don’t know about you, but absolutely every part of me loves setting goals. In my personal life, professional life… for me, for others, I love goals. Here we are, freshly in the year of 2022. If you’re like me, you’ve probably already set some goals or resolutions for this new year. If you’re not like me, you are probably tempted to exit out of this blog or are at least rolling your eyes at how excited I am about goal setting! Regardless, stay with me as I would love to share about how to best set goals that are actually attainable, opposed to a nice idea that will likely fizzle out sometime between now and February.

Using SMART goals

Within my work as a counselor (as well as in my personal life), I often hear clients identify a desire to “do better” or to improve in some area of their life. While this often comes with good intentions, it lacks any specifications regarding a plan for improvement. Take for instance a person who wants to “do better” with their health. This could mean a multitude of things — cutting out carbs, minimizing processed sugar, drinking less caffeinated beverages, increased exercise, and so forth. This person will likely fail before they have the chance to succeed in working to improve their health because they are lacking any specifics or plans for how they will enhance their health.

SMART is an acronym that functions as a guide for making your goals more tangible and realistic, which significantly increases the likelihood that you will successfully achieve or meet your goal(s).

S stands for Specific

Specific. This one’s fairly self explanatory, the more detailed and defined your goal is, the more clarity you will have on what it is you are hoping to do or achieve.

M stands for Measurable

Measurable is essentially your personal way of tracking that you are moving in the direction of your goal. This could be done in any number of ways depending on what your goal is. For instance, if I have the goal of reading at least twenty minutes each day, put a check mark on a paper calendar for each day that you complete twenty minutes of reading. Within fitness, if a person had a goal to loose thirty pounds, they could weigh themselves weekly and document their weight and progress therein.

A stands for Achievable

This is essentially getting at the heart of the goal — is this actually attainable? Do you have the resources to accomplish what you are setting out to do?

R stands for Realistic

Realistic goes hand in hand with considering if your goal is attainable. Is this practical for your lifestyle? Is it inline with your personal resources? Is the goal something that you actually want to spend your time and energy working towards, are you truly committed to accomplishing what you have identified?

T stands for Timely

Time is an excellent aspect of SMART goals — not only a way of considering how much time you intend to put toward achieving the goal on a daily or weekly basis, but also if it is helpful to have both short and long term goals in mind. For instance, if I have the goal of running a marathon but I’ve never ran in a race, it would be wise of me to sign up for a 5k, 10k, or half marathon prior to running a full. These smaller races would not only prepare me for the full marathon with regard to what to expect of the environment and what I might need the morning of a race (if I have proper footwear, etc.), but would also function as a means of demonstrating whether or not my goal is actually achievable and realistic for me, too.

Let’s come up with a couple of health-related SMART goals that can function as an example for you, if you are seeking to refine your goals in such a way that will best set you up for success.

1. I want to exercise at least three times weekly.

‣ Specific — three times weekly.

‣ Measurable — I can track how frequently I go to the gym on my gym app. I also use the Runtracker app if I opt to run instead of attending an exercise class.

‣ Achievable — I have a gym membership and running shoes (I have the resources to meet my goal).

‣ Realistic — three times weekly is doable within my schedule.

‣ Timely — three times weekly (and most classes I attend are about 45 minutes).

2. I will only drink one caffeinated beverage daily.

‣ Specific — I get one cup of coffee each day.

‣ Measurable —this is more of a daily measurement than ongoing, but once my caffeinated beverage is used that is it for my day.

‣ Achievable — this is attainable so long as I have self control, as well as some decaf beverages on hand when I am wanting to drink something other than water.

‣ Realistic — this is doable.

‣ Timely — this one isn’t overly applicable, but it is timely in that I will hold to this goal daily.

Wherever you are in your relationship with goal setting (or New Year’s resolutions), I hope this helps to provide a bit of a road map towards the most successful goals possible. If you are someone who has a lot of goals or ambitions for your life this year (ex. this is the year you seek grief counseling) but struggle with accountability, or action steps towards succeeding, please reach out to myself or another counselor at Lime Tree Counseling; we would be honored to help you reach your goals and work on yourself as you seek to lead a life that is more balanced and fulfilling.