How to Set a Goal

By Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN

As another year comes to a close, we start to think about the new year ahead and goals we may want to achieve. These goals can be health-related, work-related, or relationship-related. Whether you are the type to set a New Year’s resolution or not, it’s never a bad idea to have a goal to work towards. Here are some tips on ways to set yourself up for achieving your goal.

1. Set a Goal that Motivates You

This means making sure it is important to you and that there is value in achieving it. If you have little interest in the outcome or if it is irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make it happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

2. Set SMART Goals

You have probably heard of SMART goals already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be:

Specific

Measurable

Attainable

Relevant

Time Bound

3. Set Goals in Writing

The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible. You have no excuse for forgetting about it. As you write, use the word “will” instead of “would like to” or “might.” For example, “I will exercise 3 times per week,” not “I would like to exercise 3 times per week.” The first goal statement has power, and you can “see” yourself exercising; the second lacks passion and gives you an excuse if you get sidetracked.

4. Make an Action Plan

This step is often missed in the process of goal-setting. You get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan all of the steps needed along the way. By writing out the individual steps and then crossing each one off as you complete them, you’ll realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal. This is especially important if your goal is big and demanding or long-term.

5. Stick With It!

Remember, goal-setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.

Heather Irwin, MS, RD, LDN
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