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5 Steps to SMART Goal Setting

author image Gianna Rose
Gianna Rose is a registered nurse certified in hospice and palliative care, as well as a certified wellness coach. She completed Duke Integrative Medicine's Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course in 2009. Rose also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
5 Steps to SMART Goal Setting
Woman on couch writing in her notebook


Setting goals will help you achieve your dreams. Goals play a significant role in success, and they provide a means to measure progress along the way. Goals increase self-esteem, productivity and commitment, according to Psychology Today. You can set goals for every part of your life, including health and fitness. The SMART mnemonic is a guide to one method of setting effective goals. The 5 steps to SMART goal setting include creating goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-bound.


To be effective, your goal must specifically state what it is you want to accomplish, Vanderbilt University's Health Plus says. Vague, ambiguous goals, such as planning to lose weight or get fit, are open to interpretation and don't provide clear focus. "I will lose two pounds per week for the next 12 weeks" is an example of a specific goal. Break the goal down further into smaller goals or objectives that define exactly how you will accomplish the larger goal, such as "I will walk briskly for 30 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings," "I will not snack while watching TV" and "I will have fruit instead of desert six nights per week."


SMART goals are measurable, allowing you to clearly see if you are progressing as planned. If your goal is to walk briskly for 30 minutes on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, it's easy to measure whether you have accomplished that or not. Write down your goals and track your progress, Vanderbilt advises.


SMART goals are action-oriented, enabling you to create concrete steps that you will take to be successful. Actions don't always have to be physical. Learning new information or skills, such as how to prepare healthy meals or train with weights, is an important part of the process, Psychology Today says.


SMART goals are realistic. Planning to lose 20 pounds in a month or planning to exercise one hour a day if you haven't been exercising at all are unrealistic goals that will lead to failure. Take your time constraints and other limitations into account. Do make your goals somewhat challenging. Challenge can motivate you and keep you excited by having you stretch out of your comfort zone.


Adding a deadline to your SMART goals in vital to success. If your weight loss goal is to lose two pounds per week for the next 12 weeks, you have a deadline to meet each week to help keep you focused and on-track. When you successfully reach each goal, reward yourself. Treat yourself to a healthy lunch at a restaurant, a movie, a massage or a new book. It's important to celebrate success, according to Vanderbilt.

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