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Diet & Nutrition

Set SMART Health Goals (and Actually Reach Them) in 2021

6 Mins read

Goals are something we all have. 

Some people want to lose weight; others want to quit smoking, or improve their work/life balance. When we feel bursts of motivation (often around birthdays or New Year’s Eve), we’re compelled to start setting new resolutions for how we live our lives. 

Unfortunately, science tells us that only about 8% of people actually achieve their targets. The reason for this is simpler than you’d think – people are setting goals wrong!

You have the potential to accomplish almost anything you put your mind to. However, if you don’t have the right goal setting strategy in place, you’re instantly increasing your chances of failure. 

Let’s explore how to set SMART health goals you can realistically achieve. 

Why Set SMART Health Goals?

So, why do we set goals in the first place?

Giving yourself a target to aim for helps you to track your progress and stay focused as you pursue an important endgame. If you decided you want to lose weight, you’d need to keep track of a few things. You’d measure your diet, exercise routine, and how much weight you lost to see which strategies were really working. Goals show you what you need to measure to ensure you’re on the right path. 

Our CircleDNA health coach team says that tracking progress is crucial to success. Even if you discover you’re moving backwards, you benefit from knowing what you need to avoid in future. 

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Circle’s Health Coaches provide 1-to-1 health consultations on phone

A good goal is like a compass, guiding you towards your healthy ambitions. Unfortunately, most of us set our goals incorrectly. Psychologists say that we don’t accomplish our targets not because we’re incapable, but because we’re not planning correctly. 

Most goals are:

  • Too multi-faceted: Multitasking doesn’t work. We know that we need focus to achieve our goals, yet many of us end up setting a bunch of different targets at once. We say we want to lose 10kg of fat, earn 5kg of muscle, break our personal best in the swimming pool and so on. While those goals might be connected, they’re all individual targets. Focusing on one thing at a time means you’re less likely to be overwhelmed by your goals. 
  • Vague: The only thing worse than giving yourself too many disjointed goals in one, is being vague with what you hope to accomplish. Your goals need to be specific. Don’t just say you want to lose weight. How much weight do you want to lose? When are you going to lose it? Do you need to focus on specific problem areas? How are you going to reach your target?
  • Fleeting: If you’re just setting a goal as part of a New Year’s resolution, you’re not going to stick to it. Don’t just promise yourself things if you’re not committed to reaching your goals. You need to decide from day one: how dedicated are you?

The Key to Better Goal Setting: Think SMART

Setting healthy goals and achieving them can be tough. 

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome various obstacles. The best goal-setting method is the “SMART” strategy. If you haven’t heard of this before, it involves making your SMART health goals more:

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  • Specific: Stop setting vague targets. Decide what you want to do, how you’re going to do it, and when. Are you going to run 5km by the end of the month? Are you keen to lose 5 pounds in the next 2 months? Be specific. 
  • Measurable: If your goal is specific, it should also be measurable. Think about how you’re going to determine whether you’re moving in the right direction or not. For instance, if you want to lose 3 inches from your waist, how often will you measure this?
  • Achievable: It’s fine to have high ambitions but be kind to yourself. Setting a goal to work out for 3 hours a day when you already work 12-hour shifts isn’t feasible. Take the time to understand your body and what it’s capable of. Push yourself, but not too unreasonable standards. We all have our limits.
  • Realistic: Realism goes hand-in-hand with goals being achievable. Once you’ve chosen your goal, make sure you give yourself enough time, support, and help to achieve it. You might be able to run a marathon physically, but you’re going to need training before you get there.
  • Timely: Decide when you want to reach your goal. There needs to be an end date, otherwise, you won’t be motivating yourself to keep moving onwards and upwards. Give yourself a reasonable deadline.

Deciding on Your Achievable Goals

Setting S.M.A.R.T health goals will set you up for success. If you’re not sure what you can reasonably accomplish, it might be worth checking out your genetic profile and speaking to your doctor before you begin planning. Understanding how your body deals with fat will make it easier to lose weight long-term, for instance. While some people thrive on the keto diet, others struggle. 

Your genetic profile can also help you to decide which of your goals are most important. For instance, if you know you’re predisposed to heart conditions, working on cardio is a good idea. You can speak to your doctor about how you can begin improving your endurance, boosting your circulation and reducing cholesterol levels. 

Ensure that you’re physically, mentally, and medically equipped to handle the targets you set for yourself. It’s also worth looking into any conditions that you may need to consider when you’re working towards your ambitions. For instance, if you want to lose weight but you have bad joints, you might find low-impact exercises like swimming more appealing.

Tips for Achieving Your Goals

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Once you’ve chosen your S.M.A.R.T health goals and you’re feeling confident in your ability to achieve it, it’s time to start working towards that target. 

Here are some quick tips to help make your healthy goals more attainable:

Set milestones:

  • Even if your goal doesn’t seem particularly large at first, milestones are an excellent way to keep yourself motivated. When you’re struggling to achieve the right results, it’s easy for your ambitions to start looking too complex or overwhelming. Breaking big goals down into something smaller makes them much more achievable. For instance, you might want to lose 5kg eventually, but first, focus on losing that first 1kg. 

Be kind to yourself:

  • Achieving genuinely valuable and healthy goals is a big deal. Most of the times, the goals you set will involve changing ingrained habits, like eating the wrong foods or relaxing on the sofa instead of going to the gym. It’s difficult to make these changes – particularly at first. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t accomplish a milestone on time or you struggle with something. Learn from each hurdle you encounter and incorporate what you discover into your goals. 

Be honest about your abilities:

  • Telling yourself you can accomplish more than you realistically can doesn’t just push you to try harder. Being unrealistic with your goals sets you up for failure and disappointment. If you want to start walking 15000 steps a day, that’s great, but if you’ve only walked 1,000 up to now, don’t expect the change to happen overnight.

Track your progress:

  • Monitoring your progress is a must for healthy goal setting. You’ll need a way to measure whether you’re heading in the right direction. Are you losing weight? Great, but if you’re not losing it as quickly as you like, maybe it’s time to reconsider your diet, or talk to your personal trainer. Proper tracking should ensure that you keep improving your outcomes and move faster towards your end goals. 

Reward yourself:

  • Part of staying motivated when dealing with difficult goals is knowing when to reward yourself. If you’ve been trying to lose 20kg and you’ve just hit the 5kg mark, that’s a reason to celebrate. Just make sure that you’re not rewarding yourself with something that’s going to undo your hard work. A whole chocolate cake probably isn’t a good idea.

Get support:

  • No one ever said you had to achieve your health goals all alone. If you have people around you that can offer support as you make these changes, use them! Professional nutritionists, personal trainers, and doctors can offer plenty of useful advice. Don’t underestimate the impact of family and friends on motivation too. 

Set Yourself Up for Success with SMART Health Goals

Proper healthy goal setting is the first step in achieving your long-term targets. Whether you’re looking to lose weight or cut down on an unhealthy habit, it all sets with setting that target. By focusing on one goal at a time, tracking your progress, and using “SMART” health goals, you can reduce your chances of simply forgetting about your goals, or giving up too early. 

You’re capable of achieving all kinds of incredible things. All you need is the right compass to guide you. Reach out to CircleDNA today for help setting your S.M.A.R.T health goals.

Make sure you reach your health and fitness goals in 2021 by discovering your unique genetic profile at www.circleDNA.

Team CircleDNA
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The editorial team behind CircleMagazine, dedicated to bringing you bite-size health tips, real-life health stories and the latest genetic-related findings at this digital health hub.
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