What are your goals? Make them SMART!
If you’ve decided to change a habit—whether it’s quitting smoking, lowering your blood pressure, becoming more active, or doing something else to improve your health—congratulations! Making that decision is the first step toward making a change. It’s not easy to change habits. But taking the time to really think about what will motivate or inspire you will help you reach your goals.
When you are clear about your reasons for wanting to make a change, it’s time to set your goals!
Let’s take running a marathon as an example of something you want to accomplish and set goals for. What really is your goal and how do you get there? Your overall goal might be just to finish the marathon, or it might be for a specific time like your personal best or under 4 hours. Setting goals that can be achieved are not always as easy as it seems. If you take time early on and make sure your overall goal, as well as your intermediate goals, is “SMART” then the chances of success increases dramatically.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Specific.
Let’s say your goal is to run the half marathon, to make it more specific, your goal might be to run a half marathon in less than 2 hours. This is also a measurable goal, you will know if you succeed or not at the end of the race. It may or may not be attainable, depending on who you are, your genetics, your resources, your training history, and your abilities. This requires knowing yourself, knowing what is reasonable to push towards but also knowing your limitations. This is why for your first long race, just finishing is a very worthy goal.
If you’re a first timer, remember that most people do not know how long a marathon is, let alone what an OK time is, but you and everyone else will see you differently once you have finished a marathon. So, the only real time that might matter for you if this is your first marathon is the 6 hour time limit (or 3.5 hours for the half). Realistic goes along with attainable, but also requires you to look at your life, what barriers you have, and what you can really do on a day to day basis. It might be attainable for you to run a marathon in a time to qualify for the Boston Marathon, but in your life do you realistically have the time to train adequately, to rest adequately, to eat appropriately and on the correct schedule, and have the expertise or resources to get that expertise? Finally, by setting your goal for this upcoming race, you have made it time-specific, you have set a deadline because this is going to happen on the day of the race.
In addition to your overall goal, looking at your training plan and weekly and daily goals through the lens of SMART goal will help you ensure success. Any training plan, whether it is you own or an “expert’s” plan, has to fit you and your abilities and life.
When setting goals always remember, make them SMART!