“Action is the foundational key to all success.” — Pablo Picasso
Throughout my professional life as a project manager, I have worked with goals. In fact, the very nature of project management is to set a goal, break that goal down into tasks and subtasks, set milestones (mini goals along the way) and set time frames for the completion of the project. Granted this is a bit of an oversimplification, but you get the idea.
Recently I have been doing some work with S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or relevant and time bound.
In weight loss this might translate to:
“I want to reach a goal weight of 145 lbs by losing 40 pounds within 6 months at a rate of just over 1.5 pounds per week.”
This is certainly specific, measurable, achievable, theoretically realistic and time bound, but is it actually smart?
I can not tell you how many countless times I have gotten out the calendar, calculated how much weight I could lose before a trip, a wedding, a birthday, you name it, only to disappoint myself and not reach that goal.
I would see how many weeks it would take me to get to my goal weight by losing 1 lb per week or 2 lbs per week and then decide that this is what I would do. This approach NEVER worked for me.
Now SMART goals work in many contexts but when it comes to losing weight, I believe there are just too many variables in the equation. Weight loss, and ideally fat loss, is just not a linear process and it is not the same for everyone. The body and the mind just don’t work that way.
So, what can you do differently?
You can set action-oriented goals that allow for flexibility and failure. You can set goals that A.F.F.I.R.M. (I couldn’t help myself) who you are and what you are trying to achieve.
These goals are:
Action-oriented. Focus on the specific actions you can take today, tomorrow, and the next day. What are the recurring actions that will maximize your chances of reaching your goal(s)?
For example, an action-oriented goal could be to walk 3x a week or maybe just to walk 5 minutes a day. It could be to plan your meals each night or to track your food for even just one week or day. Perhaps it is to only eat fast food one day a week, or to simply stop eating the leftovers from your kids’ plate.
During several of the Half Size Me podcasts (Episodes 100 and 108), Heather, talks about changing just one small thing and how the accumulation of those small changes will propel you forward and help you reach your larger goals.
Failure is okay. Too often failure is viewed as the end. You say “Oh, I failed” and then quit. If you set your goals to allow for failure, you give yourself the chance to succeed and to learn from your failures on the way.
For example, I recently quit drinking Diet Pepsi. I set a goal of giving up Diet Pepsi for the month of March. Well in 31 days, I had 5 Diet Pepsi’s. Did I fail? On those 5 days maybe but as a whole, NO. Five Diet Pepsi’s is way better than 31 or 62. Did I learn from my failure on those 5 days? Absolutely.
Flexible. Weight loss and fitness goals have to be flexible so that we can respond to the things life throws at us. Let’s say you set an action-oriented goal to run 3x a week and your working towards a 10K. However, you sustain an injury.
Did you fail? Do you get mad, frustrated and perhaps head to the fridge to soothe your ego and your frustration?
No, change the goal to walk 3x a week or do the elliptical, or focus on your strength training for a while instead. The rest of life such as sick kids, work deadlines, or a broken down car, will all interfere at times with your goals. Be flexible and adapt but just keep going.
Instill new habits. Weight loss and healthy living are all about habits. Exercise habits, healthy eating habits, and positive thinking habits. Shouldn’t our goals help instill new habits or reinforce the positive ones?
James Clear has some great posts on habits, check out his 3 simple steps to actually stick with a good habit. http://jamesclear.com/small-habits.
Recordable. Think of it as the grown up version of a star chart. Hey, go get yourself some sparkly stars if you want! Personally I love glitter. But, have a chart and a way to track your daily success. I like the one created by Dr. Kostevski in a blog post on how he uses action-based goals in body-building.
I modified his a bit to better fit my needs of a daily chart that could be used for any month.
Of course, there is always an app for that. Check out the Lift app for an all-purpose goals app.
Meaningful for YOU. Lastly, but it’s hugely important, make the goals something that YOU care about, not what you think you should care about, but something that really means something to you.
I recently set a goal of doing a certain number of push-ups. But once I started working on this goal, I realized I just don’t care and this is not motivating to me. Find what works for you and ditch the rest!