Jennifer Ellison-Brown | Effective goal-setting hints to a healthier lifestyle
To initiate change, goals are essential. Goals motivate behavioural change and provide a plan of action. Goals are most effective when they are:
1. Well planned. Only with a well-conceived action plan will you attain your goal. You should also write specific objectives to help you reach each goal.
The specific objectives are the steps required to reach a goal. For example, a goal might be to achieve recommended body weight. Several specific objectives could be to:
(a) Lose an average of one pound or one fat percentage point per week
(b) Monitor body weight before breakfast every morning.
(c) Assess body composition every two week
(d) Limit fat intake to less than 25 per cent of total calories
(e) Eliminate all pastry from the diet during this time.
(f) Exercise in the proper target zone for 45 minutes, five times per week
2. Personalised. Goals that you set for yourself are more motivational than goals that someone else sets for you.
3. Written. An unwritten goal is simply a wish. A written goal in essence becomes a contract with yourself. You can show this goal to a friend or instructor and have him or her witness the contract you made with yourself by signing alongside your signature.
4. Realistic. Goals should be within reach. For example, if your current weight is 190 pounds and your target weight is 140 pounds, setting a goal to lose 50 pounds in two months would be unsound, if not impossible. Unattainable goals lead to discouragement and loss of interest. At times, problems may arise even with realistic goals. Try to anticipate potential difficulties as much as possible and plan for ways to deal with them. For example, if your goal is to jog for 30 minutes on six consecutive days, what are the alternatives if the weather turns bad? Possible solutions are to jog in the rain, jog at a different time of day when the weather improves, find an indoor area to jog, or participate in a different aerobic activity.
PLAN OF ACTION
5. Embrace with positive thoughts. Visualise and believe in your success. As difficult as some tasks may seem, where there is a will, there is a way. A plan of action will help you to achieve your goals.
6. Short term and long term. If the long-term goal is to attain recommended body weight and you are 50 pounds overweight, you might set a short-term goal of losing 10 pounds and write specific objectives to accomplish this goal. Then, the immediate task will not seem as overwhelming and will be easier.
7. Measurable. Whenever possible, goals and objectives should be measurable. For example 'to lose weight' is not measurable. If the goal is to achieve recommended body weight, this implies lowering your body weight (fat) to the recommended per cent body fat standard. To be more descriptive, the goal should be reworded to read 'reduce body weight to 22 percent body fat'. Also, note that all the sample specific objectives in item one above are measurable. For instance, you can figure out easily whether you are losing a pound per week; you can conduct a nutrient analysis to assess your average fat intake; or you can monitor your weekly exercise sessions to make sure you are meeting this specific objective.
8. Time-specific. A goal should have a specific date set for completion. The chosen date should be realistic, but not too distant in the future. With a deadline, a task is much easier to work towards.
9. Monitored. Monitoring your progress as you move towards a goal reinforces behaviour. Keeping an exercise log or doing a body-composition assessment periodically enables you to determine your progress at any given time.
10. Evaluated. Periodic re-evaluation is vital for success. You may find that a goal may be unreachable. If so, reassess the goal. On the other hand, if a goal is too easy, you may lose interest and stop working towards it. Once you achieve a goal, set a new one to improve upon or maintain what you have achieved. Goals keep you motivated.
Recognise that you will face obstacles and you will not always meet your goals. Use your setbacks and learn from them. Rewrite your goal and create a plan that will help you get around self-defeating behaviours in the future.