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'SMART' GOALS: Are They Really That SMART?

SMART goals are a great tool, but like any tool they must be used for the right job and no matter how good they are at that job that will never make them good at every job.


This week we’ve broken down each letter of SMART goals. If you missed those Facebook posts, you can find them HERE. (Like and Share)


Today I’m going to discuss why SMART goals may not always be so smart, especially in fitness. SMART goals are bad at spurring change and health and fitness goals nearly always involve change. SMART goals lack emotion, they are rigid and analytical. Humans are multidimensional, we have emotions, feelings, hopes, dreams, and fears; SMART goals do not account for these dimensions. SMART goals are great for eliminating ambiguity and irrelevance, but to spur change there needs to be more. Fitness goals involve change and emotion drives change. Scratch that--properly directed emotion drives change. If your emotions aren’t harnessed, nurtured, and directed they will be fleeting and you will lose motivation to change.


How do you set a goal that can harness, nurture and direct your emotions to help you succeed on your fitness journey? In Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath discuss a “destination postcard.” This is a goal that paints an emotional picture of where your hard work will take you. It elicits the feelings and emotions you will experience once you reach your goal reminding you that the hard work will be worth it. My destination postcard is “In 8 months I will be sitting on the beach in Hawaii wearing a size 30 speedo and feeling confident about it.” This idea excites me and reminds me why I am doing all the hard work. It appeals to my emotions. Once you have a clear picture of your destination, you can begin mapping out a plan to arrive there.


You know your destination, now you must figure out how to get there.


You might spend a little time considering all of the steps that will need to be taken to reach your destination, but at first, you should focus on the start. You may be tempted to plan in detail each step along the way, but I would caution against this. In addition to falling prey to ‘paralysis by analysis,’ the steps in the middle will likely change once you get there. Think about taking a road trip. You know where you’re going, so now you plan your route, and maybe even where to stop for gas and meals. Little do you know, there is a detour or  someone will need an unscheduled bathroom break. While it isn’t bad to have a general idea of the path, it is important not to get bogged down in the details. If we are talking about something that will happen in 3 months, it will probably change.


As you work towards your destination, SMART goals can be helpful. For example, if my destination is to be sitting on a beach in my size 30 speedo in April, I know I need to start exercising. Starting to exercise, is vague. I could go for a 5 minute walk and technically have reached my goal to “start exercising.” A better way to approach this would be a SMART goal, I will get 45 minutes of moderate (sweat inducing) cardiovascular exercise, 3 days a week for the next 4 weeks, as the first step in reaching my destination postcard. As I get closer to my destination, I can adjust my workout goal to reflect where I am and what I need to do to keep moving towards the destination.


As you can see, SMART goals are helpful but they lack an emotional response. To account for this, a destination postcard is an effective tool. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t use SMART goals at all. SMART goals are helpful at keeping you on the road towards your destination.


If you would like help setting and reaching your own goal CLICK HERE today.


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