Do You Have SMART Goals?

By Lela Simon
Published on Mar 13th, 2010

As a general rule the people I meet in the dedicated martial arts community are motivated, driven people. They strive for goals based on intrinsic motivation, without much need for carrots or sticks.

As instructors though, we can forget what it is to be a newbie, someone who has not yet seen the benefits of a particular practice, someone who has yet to experience personal fulfillment through self actualization. As mentors we need a way to communicate with these people, a way to set reasonable goals and create action plans that make it possible for our students and partners to get to the "top of the mountain".

One way to do this is to use the SMART system for goal setting. This creates a safe framework for goal sets that prevents the two major causes of plan failure 1) setting an impossibly high standard and 2) not having a plan of action.

The SMART system is a simple mnemonic device that asks questions to help organize a goal set.

The first is

Is this goal Specific?
A nebulous goal is a goal that is automatically unachievable. Statements like, "I want to feel better" or "I want to be healthier," sound good but aren't as helpful as, "I want to be able to run a mile in 10 minutes comfortably" or "I want to lose 10 pounds". These goals are specific enough that you will know when you have achieved them.

Is this goal Measurable?
A goal that cannot be measured cannot be attained. Using the example of "I want to feel better", how do you know when you feel better? If you feel really good for a week, then get a cold, have you failed your goal? If you use heroin and you feel good when you are on it, have you reached your goal? A goal like "I want to complete a 5K race" is simple to measure, you either have done it or you haven't.

Is this goal Attainable?
We are bombarded by marketing campaigns that are meant to inflate our expectations of ourselves. "Lose 30 lbs. in 30 days!" "Get fit in just 3 minutes a day!" Claims like these make it tempting to think that we should expect the impossible of ourselves. This question asks us to be honest with ourselves. For some bike riding 10 miles a day might be completely realistic, for others this would be goal suicide.

Is this goal Relevant?
The goal needs to have some meaning to the person setting it or the goal will not be met.
This is a particularly tricky thing for mentors and instructors. It is very important that we do not press our own ideas and desires on our students and partners. Only a goal that is meaningful will be important enough to garner attention and care.

Is this goal Time bound?
Without a time limit, a goal is just a dream. Losing 10 pounds sometime in your lifetime isn't much of a goal. Running a 5K sometime before you die doesn't mean much. A concrete timetable creates motivation for serious effort.

A goal before SMART setting might look like this:
"I want to get healthy this year. I want to be more active and be more involved with my family."

After a SMART set those same goals would look like this:
"I am going to lose 10 pounds and get my blood pressure under 120/90 by December. I am going to walk at least 4 miles per week and spend 20 minutes each day playing outside with my kids."

Proper goal setting can make a huge difference in how our students and partners make changes to their lives, and in our own lives as well.

Filed under Techniques and Tutorials

Author Bio :: Lela Simon

As an ACE certified Personal Trainer, Lela Simon quickly realized that while exercise was an incredibly powerful force for change in the life and for the health of her clients, without a total lifestyle management system, many people would not achieve ultimate wellness.

After searching for the ideal fit, she settled on a dual certification from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University in Health Counseling. She used the knowledge that she gained and her experience with mediation and the culinary arts to craft a well-rounded, holistic approach to lifestyle and fitness.

Since 2003 Lela has made it her lifes work to help people become healthier, happier and more balanced. Her online radio show, website, articles, place on the board of the MALC, and answers have all served to spread her message.

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