If you want to make a big change in your life, this tool can help you get where you want to be
By Katrina Caruso
Making lifestyle changes can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be. Say that you’re trying to save more money or to improve your fitness level. These can be daunting tasks, and it can be hard to know where to begin. We humans don’t do well with abstract sweeping plans: as with gym memberships and New Year’s resolutions that fall by the wayside year after year, we forget, get comfortable in our old habits, or simply aren’t sufficiently motivated to make the change.
So, what to do?
The secret is adopting the SMART method. Commonly used in the corporate world, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable (or Attainable), Realistic, and Time-Based. It forces you to ask yourself the basic questions of who, what, where, when, and how about the goal.
Let’s break that down:
Specific: Consider numbers and nitty-gritty details. How much money do you want to save? By when? How many days a week are you going to eat a home-cooked meal instead of take-out?
Measurable: Find a method to track your mini-achievements, for accountability’s sake. This can take the form of reminders in your phone or starting a goal-tracking Google Calendar. If you’re hoping to get fit, you can take your measurements every week or take photos of your progress.
Achievable: Here’s where you ask yourself how you can get to this goal and what skills you may need to develop or habits you need to acquire to get there. When you write these goals down, use positive action phrases such as “I am” or “I will” rather than the passive “I hope to” or “I will try.” This may mean that you need to figure out some mini goals to attain the main goal.
Realistic: Keep your goals small, simple, and based in reality. Choose a goal that you know you can attain and that you actually want to attain. Think about whether you have the money, time, energy, and motivation to take on this new challenge. For example, if you’re out of shape, scale back from training for the IRONMAN triathlon for now and aim for a 5k run—or walk.
Time-Based: Deadlines help—and choose specific dates. Signing up for a yoga class on Saturday mornings or planning to save an extra $3,000 by August 2018 makes it much easier to stick to your commitment.
If you don’t even know where to begin, try to visualize one thing that you’d like to change or something you’d like to be able to brag about at a dinner party. If you need things to feel more concrete, write your goals down, perhaps starting a journal or a vision board.