New year, new goals

When it comes to change in the new year, set realistic goals you can achieve. 

Every year the new year rolls around, and it is a time of renewal and new beginnings. It is a time to set goals for personal improvement.

I always set goals, and many times they are doomed for failure before I begin them because they are overambitious and too overwhelming. For example, I want to lose 20 pounds, or I am going to start exercising at 5 a.m. every morning for 30 minutes. Why are these goals unobtainable? Because I am setting end goals instead of setting intermediate goals. By using the SMART system, it is much easier to reach goals. The SMART system is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Let us break it down.

Specific goals: Ask yourself six questions to make a specific goal. The Top Achievement website, which provides suggestions on creating SMART goals, recommends the following questions.

Who: Who is involved in the action?

What: What do I hope to accomplish by fulfilling this goal?

Where: Plan out where the goal will take place.

When: Set a time frame in which you hope to accomplish the goal.

Which: Recognize requirements and constraints that may affect the goal.

Why: Identify reasons and benefits of fulfilling the goal.

An example of this is the following: I am going to exercise at home every day for at least 10 minutes, gradually increasing the time frame so that I am eventually exercising 30 minutes each day. I will increase the time frame five minutes each week until I reach the 30 minutes. I want to exercise to help improve health.

Measurable goals: When you are keeping track of your progress, you achieve your objectives, reach your target dates and experience a sense of accomplishment. To understand if your goal is measurable, ask yourself: How much? How many? How will I know when I have achieved my goal?

To continue with the exercise example, I would answer the previous questions. I will walk for 10 minutes each day after work. (I set the time for after work because I know I will never get up at 5 a.m. to exercise.) I will do this by setting a timer on my phone to remind me when I need to walk.

Attainable goals: You can obtain almost any goal you set when you plan ahead. Plan out the steps you need in order to accomplish your goal, and a time frame to complete them. Guidance from the Top Achievement website says, “Goals that may have seemed far away and out of reach eventually move closer and become attainable, not because your goals shrink, but because you grow and expand to match them.” See more at topachievement.com/smart.html.

By breaking my exercise goal down into smaller time frames and setting it at a realistic time of day, I am more likely to exercise.

Realistic goals: To determine if your goal is realistic, ask questions such as:

Do I imagine that the goal can be accomplished? Have I done anything similar in the past? Can I identify the requirements that I need to complete this?

Continuing with the exercise goal — I am able to easily accomplish walking 10 minutes a day. I have done so in the past and I have all the things I need to accomplish my goal — a good pair of walking shoes.

Timely goals: A goal should have a set time frame. When do you want to accomplish your goal? “Someday” will not work. If you set a specific time frame to complete your goal then you begin focusing on that goal.

Continuing with the exercise goal — I will begin walking each day starting this Monday, and will do so every weekday, taking the weekends off.

To finish your goal, put your entire goal together from each answered section and that is your SMART goal! So, using exercise as the example, my SMART goal is:

I am going to walk at home every day for at least 10 minutes, gradually increasing the time frame so that I am eventually exercising 30 minutes each day. I will increase the time frame five minutes each week until I reach the 30 minutes. I want to exercise to help improve health. I will walk for 10 minutes each day after work. I will do this by setting a timer on my phone to remind me when I need to walk. I am able to easily accomplish walking 10 minutes a day. I have done so in the past and I have all the things I need to accomplish my goal — a good pair of walking shoes. I will begin walking each day starting this Monday, and will do so every weekday, taking the weekends off.

I have set my goal. Now it is time to set yours. Happy New Year and happy goal setting.

Adrian Kohrt is a family nutrition coordinator for Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For questions, she can be contacted at amkohrt@alaska.edu or 907-474-7930.