A big part of my job as a personal trainer involves getting people to be clear about their goals, then keeping them focussed on these goals as I take them through the actions they need to perform in order to achieve them. There are a few simple guidelines I use in helping people to clarify their goals and make them effective tools for motivation later on, summed up in the abbreviation “SMART”.
S is for Simple.
By “simple” I don’t mean easy. I mean the goal itself has to be a simple concept, easy to understand, express and visualise during times of fatigue, discouragement and doubt. Comfortably wearing a size 10, being able to bench-press 130kg, or succeeding in managing type 2 diabetes without insulin are all examples of simple goals.
M is for Measurable
How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? You have to be able to measure them. A dress size, a body-fat percentage, girth measurements or fitness tests all provide ways of measuring progress. The most important thing is choosing the right measurement for your goal. If your goal is managing diabetes, reducing body-fat and increasing fitness levels will both be important, but the true measure of your success will be your doctor’s feedback, including blood-sugar tests. If you’re a jockey, your results will probably be measured in weight. If you want to look good at the beach, weight is irrelevant – it’s girth measurements, body-fat percentage and dress-size which will reflect your success.
A is for Achievable
While I love to see people shoot for the stars, goals need to be achievable, otherwise you’re setting yourself up to feel like a failure. If you’re thirty years old, becoming an Olympic gymnast may not be achievable (although I will never write anything off as impossible!) If you have chronic disk degeneration and arthritis in the spine, you might not be winning any strongman competitions. Choose goals which are challenging but achievable. You can always set the bar higher after you’ve achieved the first goal, and you’ll be fuelled with the energy of success!
R is for Realistic
This ties in with the last item: “Achievable.” Think about how much time you are willing to put into your exercise routine, how disciplined you are willing to be with your diet, what sacrifices you are willing to make, what your budget is, what urgency is involved in your goal.
T is for Time
Kill procrastination by putting time-limit on your goals. Break it down into intervals if you like: for example, getting down to a size 12 in six weeks, and a size 10 in twelve weeks; being able to run 5 km in eight weeks, and increasing that to 10 km in four months. That way you’ll stay on track with smaller goals along the way, while having a compelling and realistic deadline to meet for your ultimate goal.
The first step in any journey is identifying where you want to go. Create a simple, clear and compelling image of your success, identify what factors will measure your success, make sure it is achievable and realistic, and then set your time-limit – this is the road-map to your success. Good luck!