SMART method will help people achieve their goals

  • Published
  • By Capt. Chadwick Ackison
  • ff
How often have you ever said to yourself, "You know, one of these days I am going to..." or perhaps, "This is the year that I do..."? For many of us, identifying areas we would like to improve is fairly common; however, making lasting changes can prove quite challenging.

Although many of us have the best intentions and the motivation to change, perhaps some of the problems we face in implementing lasting change lie with the process we use to formulate goals, making the "achieving part" quite difficult. If we were to take a closer look at how we formulate our goals, and implement simple strategies to achieve them, perhaps those New Year's resolutions will no longer appear so overwhelming.

A simple model can make the difference between standing on the mountain or falling back on the couch. The model is called SMART goal setting and it begins with S, which stands for specific. Running a half-marathon is certainly a good goal, but without a specific plan it could be overwhelming.

A good strategy breaks the goal down into specific parts:
1) Who is involved -- train alone or with group
2) What do I want to accomplish -- distance per week
3) Where will I train -- route each day
4) When do I train -- time of day
5) Why am I doing this -- internal or external motivators

The next aspect of goal setting rests with M, for measurable. Simply, how do I measure and track my progress toward my goal. One key component to this aspect is reflecting on where you were when you began working toward your goal and the progress you've made. This can actually motivate you to continue working toward the end goal.

Next, the two most important aspects of goal setting -- A and R -- for attainable and realistic. Ask yourself, "Can I commit time, effort, and resources, and am I willing and able to work toward this goal?"

The final component is T, for timely. By establishing reasonable timelines we afford ourselves the amount of time required to safely reach our goals, but likewise hold ourselves accountable to the end result.

In theory, this model is a great way to identify achievable goals for ourselves, but in reality there may be times when working toward the goal we will get sidetracked. This is the time when we need to evaluate what happened and quickly get back on track. This can be the difference between a slip, a lapse, and a collapse. A slip is a slight deviation from the plan or mistake that is not consistent with the end goal. A lapse is a series of slips, and a collapse...well...we're back on the couch! By quickly identifying slips we can avoid both lapses and collapses from making your newly established goal just another dead-end New Year's resolution.

How do we do that?
1) Identify and accept that you have slipped.
2) Recall what you were doing to meet your goals.
3) Get back on the horse and resume as quickly as possible.

The final secret to goal setting may be found in the "why" mentioned earlier. External motivators such as "doing this for them" can be a very powerful motivator, but there is also a great deal of satisfaction in "doing this for me," which is an internal motivator. Regardless, whatever the goal, whatever the reason, whomever the person, if you require further assistance establishing and reaching your goals there are many agencies on base that can help you along the way, including medical professionals, fitness experts, and the Health and Wellness Center. 

Editor's note: Capt. Ackison is a clinical psychologist and chief of the Resiliency Element of the 95th Medical Operations Squadron. He can be reached at 661-527-5291.