6 am Monday morning, your alarm rings waking you up from a deep slumber. Without much thought you change into your running gear, lace up your runners, chug a cup of coffee and head out for your morning run. You do this every day. Mindlessly you run the same route day after day after day. You’ve definitely established a routine, a habit if you will, but not much has changed. Your weight loss has reached a plateau, your race performance hasn’t improved, or you haven’t been able to increase your distance enough to race that half or full marathon that you’ve always wanted to. Maybe you want to run longer? Faster? More consistent? Lose a pound or two?
What are your goals? Pick up a pen and a piece of paper and jot down the goals you’d like to reach. Don’t worry I’ll wait….
Done? Ok, now look at each goal and evaluate it as you read this article. Make any changes necessary to ensure that your goals meet the criteria for SMART goals.
The best goals are smart goals ” well, actually SMART goals is more like it. SMART is a handy acronym for the five characteristics of well-designed goals. SMART goals are:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Realistic
T = Timely
Are your goals straightforward and emphasize what you would like to reach? Do they answer the what, why and how?
WHAT are you going to do? Use action words!
WHY is this important to do at this time? What do you want to ultimately accomplish?
HOW are you going to do it? (By…)
For example, a general goal would be, “Get in shape.” But a specific goal would say, “Join a running club and run 3 days a week.”
Do your goals establish concrete criteria for measuring progress? When you measure your progress, you stay on track, reach your target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs you on to continued effort required to reach your goals.
To determine if your goal is measurable, ask questions such as……How much? How many? How will I know when it is accomplished? Some ways to measure progress are: Time, Distance, Weight, # of runs, speed, # of repeats etc…
When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. Goals you set which are too far out of your reach, you probably won’t commit to doing. Although you may start with the best of intentions, the knowledge that it’s too much for you means your subconscious will keep reminding you of this fact and will stop you from even giving it your best.
A goal needs to stretch you slightly so you feel you can do it and it will need a real commitment from you.
This is not a synonym for “easy.” Realistic, in this case, means “do-able”. Devise a plan or a way of getting there which makes the goal realistic. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. Be sure to set goals that you can attain with some effort! Too difficult and you set the stage for failure, but too low and you’ll have difficulty sticking to your plan as the goal will not be a good motivator. Set the bar high enough for a satisfying achievement!
Set a timeframe for the goal: for next week, in three months…. Putting an end point on your goal gives you a clear target to work towards. If you don’t set a time, the commitment is too vague. It tends not to happen because you feel you can start at any time. Without a time limit, there’s no urgency to start taking action NOW.
Time must also be measurable, attainable and realistic.
So what does a SMART goal look like?
I knew you would ask that, so I thought I’d share mine with you. My goal is to:
Train to run the Mississauga Half-Marathon in May 2010 by running 4 times a week during my lunch hour starting when I return to work on January 4, 2010.
S= Train to run a Half-marathon by running 4 times/week
M=running 4 times/week
A=run the Mississauga Half-Marathon (I’m returning from close to a 4 year hiatus caused by the birth of my second daughter)
R=running 4 times/week during my lunch hour (I know that I’d never be able to commit to running every weekday lunch, and I also know that I’d never be able to commit to running on weekends – I value my family time far too much to give that up for some “me” time).
T=May 2010, ample time for me to train for a half-marathon – I know that I won’t post a PB, but I will definitely be able to complete the race and not spend the next two days complaining that I feel like I’m 90 years old…
Now that I’ve shared my goal with you, what are your SMART goals?