Day-to-Day Living

Setting Achievable, SMART Goals with Multiple Sclerosis

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New year. New me. Setting SMART goals is a great way to stick to your resolutions and boost your health in 2018 (and beyond!)

Goals are an essential factor in adopting a healthier lifestyle. Proper goals help you identify both desirable changes and the necessary steps to enact the change.

When it comes to setting health goals, it may be anything from eating a better diet to running in a marathon. Although the end destination is important, the journey matters, too. SMART goal setting makes getting to the end “doable.”

In order to stay motivated and set achievable goals, your goals must be broken down into manageable steps that can be tracked and evaluated. This is the thought process behind SMART goals.

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What are SMART goals?

SMART is an acronym that can help you remember the important aspects of a good goal. All goals should be:

  • S – specific
  • M – measurable
  • A – attainable
  • R – relevant
  • T – time-framed

When you follow the SMART goal setting technique it allows you to set realistic expectations, track your progress and it will help you to more easily obtain your goals. When using the SMART technique, you will think in the long term. For example, if this is your New Year’s resolution, think about what you want to accomplish the entire year and break this goal into smaller chunks of time.

A good way to start is by making two lists.

  1. List #1
    • Make a list of everything you want to accomplish to help you get and stay healthy over the course of the year like walking or running a 5K or meditating for 30 minutes each day
  2. List #2
    • Create a short list of specific health priorities for each month. Start with your first month and add 2 priorities. Then, only add 1 priority for each month thereafter
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Digging into SMART goals

Once you have created your lists of top priorities and long-term goals, it’s time to put your plan into action. Here are the five criteria of the SMART technique for setting your health goals and allowing you to have the best chance of success.

  • Specific
    • The more specific you make your goals, the better. Being specific will help you focus as well as help you see the goal being achieved.
    • Instead of saying “I’m going to start walking,”  be more detailed with your goals. For example: “I will walk around the neighborhood for 20-minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning before leaving for work.”
    • Be sure to include how long you will do this routine before increasing the behavior.
  • Measurable
    • When have you achieved your goal? You won’t know unless your goal is measurable.
    • Instead of saying “I will eat better,” add an element that can be measured. For example: “I will eat 5 servings of vegetables each day.”
    • Only make goals that have solid measurable criteria.
  • Achievable
    • It’s exciting to start a health program and it’s easy to get caught up in the amazing possibilities for a future YOU. But, it is extremely important that you make sure the goals you are setting are actually attainable.
    • For example, a goal of walking in a 5k charity walk in 3 months is much more achievable than making a goal to run a marathon. 
    • Gradually increase your goals as you succeed and you can build up to new goals that previously weren’t achievable.
  • Realistic
    • Reaching your goal feels amazing…not reaching your goals can be discouraging. Before you commit your goals to a list on fridge, make sure they are doable.
    • Make sure your abilities and commitments will not interfere with realistically being able to achieve goals. It’s great to be ambitious, but impractical goals are easily abandoned.
  • Timely
    • “Someday” will not get you out of bed early for your morning walk. Putting a date to your goals will give them accountability.
    • For example, “I will walk a 5K in 3 months and will walk for 15 minutes every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday leading up to the event.”
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You can do it!

Regularly re-evaluating your goals is just as important as setting them. You can use the same SMART goals framework for re-evaluation. If it’s too easy (or too hard) you can adjust either the specifics, the measurement, or the timeframe to make it more appropriate for you.

Do not try to stick with goals that make you miserable. This will only make it more difficult to achieve them, which may eventually lead to not even attempting to achieve your ultimate goals. Choose activities that you enjoy doing and eat healthy foods that you enjoy eating.

And always remember: You’ve got this!

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