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#WednesdayWisdom | How to set better goals



New Year New Us?

I don’t believe in New Year resolutions mostly because I think it sets people up for failure. Last year however I decided that I wanted to pass my driving test at some point during the year. And then promptly forgot about my resolution, as one does!

At some point in the year I booked lessons, and after my instructor nagged me a few times I booked my test.  And today I’ve passed my practical driving test and now hold a full UK driving licence.

And with this has come an appreciation of why people fail when they set goals, it’s because it’s vague; for example, I’m going to lose weight.

Losing weight is an abstract concept, and it doesn’t mean anything on its own. We haven’t thought about this goal; e.g. how are we going to lose weight, why are we going to lose weight, how much weight are we going to lose, and how long is it going to take us? This lack of thought here is what sets us up for failure. 

This brings me to my next point; goals should be “SMART” (I learnt this at university because I have to do this with patients and at first I was skeptical and shot it down, but while practicing it with patients I found that it does work).


There are various alternatives of this on the internet for this version works for my purpose; for the weight loss example;

Specific; I want to lose 10 kg because I want to be able to reduce risks of heart disease diabetes/ to fit in my old clothes / to feel good in my own skin / lead a healthier lifestyle. (The bigger the reason for the goal the more likely you will succeed in this goal; e.g. fitting into old clothes is less of reason than reducing risks of diabetes).

Measurable; 10 kg can be measured on the weighing scale, weight loss can also be measured visibly or by needing smaller clothes. 

Action orientated; To lose weight I’m going to swap my mid morning crisps and chocolate for an apple and a handful of nuts, I’m going to eat regular meals everyday, and work out 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes.

Realistic; 10 kg is a realistic amount to lose; if you aim for half a kg weight loss a week or 1 pound then this in theory should be achievable in about 22 weeks (weight loss isn’t always easy and while the numbers are nice and easy on paper it isn’t the same in real life, but the focus here is on it being a realistic target, which 10 kg is. The actions I’m going to do to get there is also realistic. Note that I haven’t said I’m going to skips all snacks and eat salads only and work out at the gym every day of the week? That’s because that’s not a realistic set of actions for the majority of us and is not a healthy attitude to have. There is no need to set yourself up for failure.

Time bound; In essence to lose 10 kg it should take 22 weeks if you opt for 1 pound weight loss a week but as our bodies don’t respond in a simple thermodynamic manner (e.g. in theory reducing 500 kcal a day will lead to 1 pound weight loss a week) therefore having a longer time limit will help; e.g. in 1 year.


Also focusing on weight itself isn’t the best way to go about it as weight does not take into account lean muscle mass versus fat mass (muscle weighs more than fat). So a better attitude to have would be to say you want to increase your lean muscle mass by a certain amount or reduce your body fat percentage by a certain amount, or reduce your waist size to a healthy standard. These are better indications of your health status than your actual weight (to measure your lean muscle mass/body fat percentage you need access to a bio-electrical impedance scale, and to measure your waist size you need a tape measure or two). 

For me I hadn't booked the driving test and there was no time limit then I would still have been messing around. Likewise if I hadn't also arranged for lessons then booking the test would have been redundant. The actions you take to get to your goal are what gives success so you need to know what those actions are. 

Goals can be very important and hopefully this little talk on "SMART" goals will help push you in the right directions. 

Share any of your goals/resolutions for this year below. I'd love to know what everyone wants to achieve this year.

 Plan for the best year to happen, and remember it isn't going to happen on its own. 
Make 2016 the year where you make it all count. Be that person that you've always wanted to be. 

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Maira Gall