Health & Wellness Goal Setting

coffee mug next to a notepad and a pen

New Year’s Resolutions

Nope. Not this year.

Let’s talk about setting goals instead.

According to the National Institute of Health, “Goal setting is a strategy that is frequently used to help people change. A 4-step goal-setting process has been identified: recognizing a need for change; establishing a goal; adopting a goal-directed activity and self-monitoring it; and self-rewarding goal attainment.”

Step One: Recognizing a need for change. 

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying "Change is the only constant in life.” When you stop changing, you stop growing, and you start dying. Change is good! We need changes in our lives to stay vital.

Perhaps you want to improve your finances, change your weight, eat more leafy greens, or lower your cholesterol. You’ve decided to improve your health and wellness by changing something; that’s the first step!

Step Two: Establishing a goal

The dictionary says a goal is “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.”  A goal is a destination, not the journey; how do you know if you’re on the right path to reach that destination?

Your mile-markers are SMART; specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

In 1981, George Doran wrote "There's a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management's goals and objectives" in a publication called “Management Review.” In this article, Doran suggested that to achieve your goals, they should be:

Specific: I will lose 10 pounds…

Measurable: …from my current weight of 150 pounds…

Achievable: …which my doctor said is possible…

Realistic: …by cutting out empty calories and getting my steps in…

Time-Bound: … over the course of the next three months, by March 31, a pound or two a week.

“Goal setting theory predicts that, under certain conditions, setting specific difficult goals leads to higher performance when compared with no goals or vague, nonquantitative goals, such as "do your best." according to the NIH.

Setting SMART goals is a very individualistic thing; what is achievable for one person might not be for another. Each goal must be tailored to the person.  Your goals need to be written down and posted somewhere you will see them frequently.

Step Three: Adopting a goal-directed activity and self-monitoring it.

This is the actual hard work of goal setting; doing the things that will satisfy your SMART map and get you to the change-destination you have set as your goal.

You need a plan.

A plan should answer the 5Ws and sometimes the H: who, where, what, when, why, and how.

Who: I

What: Will take the stairs and walk around the building

Where: At work

When: During my lunch break for at least 15 minutes

Why: As part of my Realistic SMART goal to lose weight

How: By setting an appointment on my calendar, packing walking shoes, and wearing or carrying a step-counter every workday

There! Those are clear, relevant, actionable items; no ambiguity or vagueness. Write your plan down and put the appointment on the calendar. Pack walking shoes or keep a pair at the office. Same thing for a step-counter; there are free phone applications that will do the job. You can set a timer for those 15 minutes if your step-counter fails you.

Now you must actually do those things, but at least you have set yourself up for success.

Step Four: Rewarding goal attainment

What better way to celebrate your weight loss than with a big banana split?!?

Of course, your reward for getting to your destination should not put you back at your starting point. Rewarding yourself for accomplishing what you set out to do is a vital step in the process. It reenforces that you can make positive changes in your life and see those changes through.

You can be creative with how you reward yourself for achieving your goals. You could make yourself a certificate acknowledging the accomplishment and hang it where you’ll see it regularly, just like you posted your SMART goal and plan.  If you’re comfortable doing this, you can share the accomplishment with family and friends on the internet or through other means.  Perhaps your reward for losing those 10 pounds could be a new outfit, or an outing to a park where, you guessed it, you’ll get your steps in. Whatever motivates you to tackle the next goal.

For your health and wellness goals, one part of the reward is absolutely going to be that you are healthier and feel better about yourself!

By using this four-step process to set goals, by making them SMART instead of vague and dreamy, and by breaking down what’s necessary to do in order to achieve them and actually doing those things, and finally rewarding yourself for the accomplishment, you can tackle any goal setting you want to achieve in the new year, and for years to come, be those goals for your health and wellness or for any part of your life.

Do you have a goal-setting story to share? Contact us and share it here!

Related Links:

10 financial New Year’s resolutions to set now and achieve in the new year

New Year's resolutions you should make based on science — and how to keep them

Using goal setting as a strategy for dietary behavior change (National Institute of Health)

Goal setting as a strategy for health behavior change (NIH)

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