Many people these days are excited to jump into a new diet or exercise program that promises them the latest and greatest results available. They are willing to do just about anything to achieve success regardless of what it takes.
This is a great thing, as these people show high motivation and are likely to stick with their program, however then need to be sure to set goals that follow the SMART principle so they can be sure what they are striving for will come true.
The SMART Principle
The SMART Goal Setting Principle Includes Setting Goals That Are:
By following these principles you reduce your chances of setting goals that you wouldn't be able to obtain even if you had some sort of superhuman powers.
The 1st Principle: Specific
This refers to setting goals that are clearly described so you know exactly what it is that you are working toward. For example, rather than just saying you want to "bulk up," set a specific goal, such as "I want to focus on adding size to my arms."
If you just said you wanted to bulk up, it's too general to really help you determine what course of action you want to take. Are you going to work on your whole body, or is it just one part that needs work. How do you look in terms of being proportional? If you are strictly focusing on one body part will any other body parts begin to suffer?
By setting a specific goal, like adding size to your arms while maintaining your legs, you will know that you need to concentrate your weight training on your arms, but still keep up some cardio and a clean diet so that your legs don't also increase considerably in size and become out of proportional to your arms (assuming your arms were lagging to begin with which is why you have chosen this goal in the first place).
The 2nd Principle: Measurable
This is extremely important as it will help you to know exactly when you have achieved your goal and will give you a much greater sense of accomplishment. So referring to our previous example, instead of saying you want to "bulk up," say you want to add 1 inch to your arm size."
This is something that you can track and see your progress. Just think of how you will feel when you finally see that tape measure reach the magic number you are striving for. If you were just going for "bulk," well you can really bulk forever ... and then how would you ever know when you were done?
The 3rd Principle: Attainable
This is also critical because if your goal isn't attainable, chances are you will give up hope and either burnout trying to reach it or just quit. Someone who is currently 150 pounds, shouldn't set a goal to be 200 in 5 months.
While the goal is measurable, it definitely isn't attainable (at least not naturally). If this person sets this goal, they will no doubt feel like a failure as they approach the 4 month mark and have only gained 20 pounds and still have 30 more to go.
In this case, it would be much better to set both long-term and short-term goals. The long term could be to get to 200 pounds but you then need to allow a much greater time frame to achieve this.
Then set smaller goals, such as 170 then 185, then 200, so that you can celebrate each achievement after you have reached it and since the goals aren't so large, you will be able to feel success within a shorter duration which will also serve to keep your motivation high.
The 4th Principle: Realistic
This sort of ties in with attainable, as if your goal is unrealistic, you will also see a huge drop in motivation and will likely never keep pursuing this goal.
For example, and this is extreme, but let's say you are new to exercise, have been pretty much sedentary all your life, and you set the goal to do the Ironman at the end of the year. Chances are, no matter how good your training is, this is just not a realistic expectation for you.
Everyone will have their own unique goals and what is realistic for one person may be completely different than what is realistic for another. This is why it's always important to look at your current status and set a goal for yourself, not based on what your training partner is doing.
The Final Principle: Timeline
All goals should have a set time in which you wish to achieve them. This will make sure you don't start getting lazy and push your workouts until 'tomorrow'.
When you see the date fast approaching, you will more than likely kick yourself into high gear to ensure you reach your goals on the date you set for yourself.
Once again, incorporate the other principles into this one and make sure the timeline is realistic, as this is critical to achievement. By setting a date in which you want to achieve your goals by you are making a way to hold yourself accountable.
Now most people hate deadlines, and granted, you may start to dread this one as well, however you will be doing yourself a favor in the long run by setting it because it will keep you on your toes and will make you much more likely to keep persisting and going after your dreams.
So, the next time you are about to embark on a new fitness or diet plan, take a look at what your goal is and make sure it follows the SMART principle, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-oriented.
By making sure it incorporates all of these factors, you will increase your rate of success and make the whole process much easier on yourself.