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Be SMART: How to Keep Your Wellness Goals in Reach


It’s not uncommon for people to set wellness goals at the beginning of a new year. It’s also not unusual for you to feel overwhelmed by the changes that you want to make. For some, they eventually give up and fall prey to the stereotypes that resolutions are meaningless. This doesn’t just apply to New Year’s resolutions, but anytime you decide to make a change for yourself. However, with proper planning and goal setting, you can avoid that overwhelming feeling and begin to see the results you want.

Follow the SMART guidelines for wellness goals

So how do you go about proper planning and goal setting? We recommend using the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines. Typically, this is a system you would see businesses use when starting a new project. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. We will break down each part of this acronym to help explain how it will help keep your goals manageable and attainable. This should keep you on track and help you reach your goals.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  1. What do I want to accomplish?
  2. Where will I do it?
  3. When will I do it?
  4. Who can help me?

Need some help getting started? Here is a printable to help guide you through the process: SMART Goal Patient Flyer

To give you an example, a common goal is to lose weight, but you might not know where to start. This is where you would use the S.M.A.R.T. system.

S: Specific

The specifics should include your overall goal, but it should break it down into individual steps — the more detail in your plan, the better.

Plan out all of your meals for the day: one for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus healthy snacks in between. You want to detail the proportion of nutrients that you’re intaking and make sure it is sufficient. Then, plan out a workout routine. Make sure you know what you’re going to accomplish each time you go to the gym. Start with exercises you can handle, so you don’t strain yourself. Have a backup plan in case something goes wrong that day. Make sure the plan adjusts with your progression, so you see continual results.

M: Measurable

Establish concrete criteria for measuring progress. Have an idea of the overall goal you want to reach, and make sure you can measure your progress until you reach it.

Instead of saying “I want to lose weight” give yourself an exact amount. “I want to lose 10lbs by February 1st.” Now you can actively monitor and compare your progress to the plan, and you can make adjustments to reach that goal. Secondly, know what workouts you are going to do, and have a plan to increase them steadily. “I want to be able to do 30 consecutive pushups by February 1st.”

A: Attainable

Can your goal be accomplished, or is it wishful thinking? This step, as well as the next step, help you to make sure that you’re heading in a good direction with attainable results, rather than aiming for an impossible goal.

If your goal is to lose 60lbs in 1 week, you probably won’t make it. Set a smaller, more realistic goal and give yourself a reasonable time to achieve it. Celebrating small wins and tracking your progress along the way fuels your motivation and confidence, which can help you achieve larger, future successes.

R: Realistic

In other words, don’t set yourself up for failure. Life circumstances, such as physical, intellectual, emotional, and financial barriers, may interfere. If you don’t have the time or resources to meet your goal, you should rework it so it is something you can accomplish.

Do you have the time and physical capacity to keep up with the regimen to reach your goal? Can you afford to buy the products or groceries to assist you in fulfilling your goal? If not, reassess your goal. Instead of trying to lose 10lbs a month, try to lose 5lbs.

T: Timely

Give yourself a set date of when you want to see the changes, but make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to complete your goals. If a goal, on average, takes two weeks to accomplish, don’t expect to go from Point A to Point B in one week.

When first starting, there is no harm in giving yourself a bit more time. It can be discouraging if you don’t meet your goals on time. If your first goal is to lose 10lbs in a month, consider setting it to a month and a half. If you achieve your goals early, that’s great! Just make sure you set a time limit.

Setting clear goals provides a framework that encourages completion. It helps take away the worries and hesitations of how to accomplish goals and replaces it with determination and growth. Ultimately, goal setting enhances the ability to prioritize activities and tasks in ways that focus attention on what is most important at any given moment.

At Access Physical Therapy & Wellness, we want to see you accomplish your goals. We know they are meaningful, and we want to offer our support to help you feel your best.