Written by: Nazish Taban Yazin
It‘s often advised to set goals if you want to achieve something substantial . When it comes to health goals, it might be anything from weight management to improving your fitness.
How do you ensure your goals are healthy and leave you empowered, rather than feeling deflated and worn out? 
Here‘s what you should keep in mind.
Why should we set goals?
Goals offer direction, motivation, and a sense of purpose in our lives. They help us move forward, achieve our desired outcomes, and improve our overall productivity .
The benefits of setting goals:
- Goals allow you to measure progress as there is always a definite endpoint to compare with. Writing down your goals is recommended to visualize your progress and acknowledge the small goals you‘ve already achieved.
- Goals help overcome procrastination, wherein you become responsible for prioritising and completing the task. If it seems important, you will take steps to achieve it without delay.
- The goals are rewarding. When the goal is achieved, one feels satisfaction. Conversely, unfulfilled goals lead to frustration and stress which will reflect on your personal growth.
- Goals make the road easier. Setting big goals can sometimes seem unrealistic and time-consuming. Therefore, splitting large complex goals into smaller ones makes it clearer as to what action needs to be taken first. By meeting small goals every day, bigger ones will be achieved, too.
The Art of Goal Setting
Whether your goals are big or small, the first step to achieve them is to decide what they are and why you’re doing it . Is your health and fitness journey about having increased energy, or perhaps you want to de-stress, be a healthy role model for your kids, or reduce your risk of illness?
Knowing why your goal is important to you is not only a powerful source of motivation, it’s going to help clarify what goals suit you and help you plan your journey best .
How to use SMART goals?
Once you have settled on a main goal, you’ll need to break that down into steps and smaller goals (or process goals) to get you there . Setting daily and weekly goals is an effective way to stay motivated and accountable. This is where you set SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.
Goals need to be clear and detailed. Vague goals can feel overwhelming . Don’t say, “I want to eat better.” Instead, say, “I will start introducing 2 pieces of fruits daily.”
Here are other examples of specific goals:
- Drinking two litres of water every day
- Making one new healthy recipe each month
- Cooking dinners at home at least four nights a week
If you have no way to measure a goal, it’s tough to know when you’ve met it . ‘Eat better’ can’t be measured. ‘Eat 5 serves of vegetables every day’, is easy to measure.
Avoid overly grand goals. Goals that are too difficult and unrealistic can be discouraging and could lead to you giving up . Think like Goldilocks and find a goal that feels just right.
If taking part in a 5km charity walk in October is part of your journey to ‘being fitter and healthier’ that’s excellent. If running a Marathon next month is in there as well, you may have overstepped the mark . Start easy and set gradually more challenging goals.
It is important to understand that you want to set goals that are essential to your life right now. Goals need to have a purpose, or you may find them difficult to achieve.
Take into consideration your abilities and commitments when setting your goals. For example: ‘walking the neighbourhood for twenty minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday morning before work for the next ten weeks’ won’t go so well if you travel a lot for work.
The key is to set a timeframe that allows the goal to have a measurable outcome and also gives it a sense of accountability. You probably will not be able to lose 10kg safely in 3 weeks. Therefore, allow yourself an adequate amount of time to work towards your goal.
As much as we love the feeling of a fresh start at the start of the year, goal setting shouldn’t only be reserved for the month of January. You can do something positive for yourself and set health goals ANY time of year.
What if I’m slacking behind?
Know that setbacks are normal. When it comes to smashing your goals, day one can look very different to day 100. Having a healthy relationship with your goals means giving it your best, but also knowing it’s normal to experience setbacks and fluctuations in your energy, motivation and time . Don’t be too hard on yourself!
Overall, goal setting can also be a wonderful journey of self-discovery. If you find yourself struggling with identifying your goals or require assistance in managing your goals, visiting a health professional such as a dietitian or an exercise physiologist can help to rule out underlying problems.