By Melissa Lafrance on January 12, 2016
A goal without a plan is just a wish. -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s the time of year when we set plans to be our best selves for the year ahead, by improving our physical, professional, social, financial and/or mental wellbeing. How can we improve the chances that our goals will unfold and result in the outcome we hope for at the beginning of the year? Reaching and achieving goals can feel insurmountable even when we have the best of intentions. It takes persistence, accountability, motivation and planning.
There’s something satisfying about crossing an item off a to-do list. So why is it that a lot of us don’t take the opportunity to apply the same concept of making a list for our goals? Wouldn’t it be just as rewarding to place a completed check mark next to a goal? We’ve all experienced the feelings of pride, joy, excitement and relief that accomplishment can bring, and those feelings can help our willingness to put forth effort towards developing plans and goals.
A 1968 article by Dr. Edwin Locke, “Toward a Theory of Task Motivation and Incentives” found that employees were motivated by clear goals and appropriate feedback1. Dr. Locke went on to say that working toward a goal provided a major source of motivation to actually reach the goal which, in turn, improved performance.
You might be wondering, where do I start to accomplish my goals? How can I make these wishes realities? No matter how big or small your goal, making change requires planning, and SMART goal setting can be helpful2. Follow these guidelines to setting SMART goals to avoid them falling through the cracks and never getting accomplished.
SMART goals are:
Don’t be vague. Your goals should be clear and unambiguous. Specific goals produce a higher level of output. Break down hurdles by having single, precise, and idealistic end results.
Make sure you can measure how you will achieve your goal, by making your goal quantifiable, include target dates and units of measurements. Measurements such as how much, how often, or how many will allow you to track your progress can help keep you motivated.
Don’t set yourself up for failure, because your motivation relies on success and hope. Breaking down your main objective into smaller sub-goals and getting feedback from your support network can help determine if the end result is attainable within the parameters you have set for yourself. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t challenge ourselves. Find a happy medium.
If your goals are not relevant to you, they will likely dissipate. Avoid becoming bored or disinterested by ensuring you are passionate and energized about reaching your potential. The significance of anticipated accomplishment will help keep you interested, and in turn, motivated to follow through.
Place your goals and sub-goals within time frames and stick to it! Re-adjusting may be necessary.
Remember to have a strategy for staying accountable. Make sure to write them down. Thinking about your goals and having them in mind is not enough. You will need to evaluate your plan and re-adjusting will likely be necessary. Remember to translate your sub-goals and goals to your calendar and schedule appropriately.
Finally, it is important to highlight and acknowledge your victories and challenges along the way. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice and feedback from your support network. Here are UBC, we are incredibly fortunate to work in a highly collaborative environment and have many services to help and support us.
How UBC can help:
Articles to help with goal setting:
- Understanding and Setting SMART Goals
- How do I get there from here? Setting and Attaining Career Goals
Accessing EFAP for help with:
Contact Shepell, UBC’s Employee and Family Assistance Program provider for help with health coaching, fitness & nutrition support.
- Locke, EA. Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives. Elsevier, 1968, 3(2):157-189.
- Fuhrmann, CN, et al. Goal-Setting Strategies for Scientific and Career Success. Science Careers, 2013.
By Guest Contributor on October 29, 2014
Guest Contribution by Sasha Tymkiw
Exercise – when consistent – offers many benefits, among which is an increase in body satisfaction, further lending explanation to the sharp increase in gym memberships after the winter holidays. When enthusiasm starts to wane, however, it’s easy for our former sweaty sanctuary to become another stressor on our list of to-dos – and is often the first one we take off the list altogether.
Often people are surprised to find that almost all of those who have started and just as quickly stopped exercising have one thing in common: a failure to plan. Whether it is an unforgiving work schedule, injury, or a simple loss of interest, these variables can most always be pinpointed to lack of a plan after the initial “I’m going to start going to the gym”. For every skipped workout, however, there is a tool to help you really….no, really, stick to it this time.
When it comes to goal setting, the SMART model is a well established and useful method which for all of its function, is underused for personal fitness. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Oriented. This model is a great way to identify where you are and to plan out the steps necessary to get where you want to go. Templates for creating SMART goals are easily found on the internet.
Where this template proves most useful to exercise adherence is when the user also identifies what has happened in the past when they began missing workouts. Was it the pressures of a new relationship? Tax season? Exams and subsequent vending machine fuel? Because the SMART tool is meant to be revisited, users find a simple change (like increasing workout intensity in order to spend less time at the gym) can help reinvigorate their commitment to fitness.
When embarking on a fitness journey, it can also be wise to approach with a “slow and steady” mindset. Incorporating two workouts a week at first that you can stick to will not only allow your body to build a base level of endurance, but will allow for you to experience the self-esteem that comes from taking these (R for Realistic) first steps.
It can be helpful to think of our fitness like money being invested in stocks: we know we would first look at its past history, invest what we feel comfortable and then continuously monitor its performance. The multiple rewards experienced from exercising are why people jump into programs without much thought. We all deserve the long term security that fitness can offer our health, so let’s plan to “go for broke”, not bankruptcy.
Sasha Tymkiw is a certified Personal Trainer and has been involved in sports (competitive swimming, snowboarding, horseback riding) since childhood, making the natural progression to personal training in her early twenties. With a bachelor of psychology, numerous fitness certifications and years of experience, Sasha views pushing one’s body as an integral part of the human experience. Sasha works both independently as a trainer and teaches around Vancouver, becoming one of the first instructors who offered boot-camp style workouts in East Vancouver. Sasha is sponsored by Garden of Life Protein Powder and will be competing in her second figure competition in March 2015, promoting a long-term, balanced approach to the sport.
By Colin Hearne on January 7, 2014
For most people, the New Year is the perfect time to make a fresh start and make some changes. In fact, 45 percent of us will resolve to change something about ourselves (according to University of Scranton research). Unfortunately, only 8% of people can actually achieve their New Year’s goals! Why are resolutions so hard to keep? They’re hard to keep because habits can be extremely difficult to change, and we often set unrealistic goals. However, by using the right approach and following a few common sense tips, your resolutions can last beyond February and you’ll be closer to achieving your New Year’s goals.
The choice is yours
We all have our own personal New Year’s resolutions; however, one popular resolution is the promise to become more physically active. This can literally be a lifesaver. Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that with at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, you can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. What a perfect place to start.
The SMART Approach
The first step to reaching any goal is to use the SMART approach. SMART goals refer to those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Orientated. Here’s a little taste of how you can use this approach to become more physically active:
- Specific: It’s not enough to say you want to exercise this year. You need to give it a number. For example, “I will visit the gym three times a week” or “I will walk to work four times a week,” or even “I will go for a 15-minute walk around campus after my lunch five days a week.”
- Measurable: Now that you’ve set a specific goal, you need to establish a way to measure your progress. For example, keep a physical activity diary or record how many miles you cycle, or start using a pedometer. Being able to measure your progress helps you move toward the larger goal.
- Achievable: Can you achieve your goal? Be real to yourself and think hard about what you really want to accomplish. It will save you a lot of time and frustration down the road, and you’ll be much more motivated to reach the end result.
- Realistic: Basically, start where you are, and increase your goals accordingly. If you have never run a five-kilometre race, it’s probably not a wise goal to say you want to run a marathon. While that may be your long-term goal, in the short-term you may want to aim for the 5K and take it from there.
- Time Orientated: Deadlines. Even the word gives people shivers! Deadlines can also be an ally. Give yourself a time frame for your goal. Six months? A year?
Making it stick
Setting goals – no matter how specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time orientated – are easy. Sticking to them is not. Here are some tips to help you stay the course in the weeks and months to come.
- One at a time: You have the rest of the year to pursue other goals. Set yourself up for success, and start with one resolution on January 1. Take small steps. Don’t be overwhelmed by wanting to run a marathon … take it one kilometre at a time.
- Reward yourself. By accomplishing and celebrating small steps, you’ll stay on track, focused, and positive. Have a friend for support. It’s easier to get to the gym on a regular basis if you have someone there waiting for you. If you can’t find a friend, enlist your family in helping you reach your goal.
- Enjoy: There is no one standard time period for a habit to form – it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days, according to habit formation researchers from the University College London. The key is to focus on the activity or process that will take you toward your goal, rather than the goal itself. For example, if your goal is to participate in a 10K run by the end of the year, focus on being able to go a little bit further, and a little bit faster, every time you go out for a jog.
- Don’t be discouraged: If you slip up, don’t abandon your resolution. Skipping a session one evening is not the end of your journey. It’s just a temporary setback. Learn from the slip, and get back to your new activity habits.
- Be kind to yourself. You’re more likely to abandon your resolution when you’re stressed or overwhelmed, so set some time every day for yourself. Try meditation, yoga, reading a book, or just going for a walk. The more practice you have being still and calm, the more successful you’ll be for each step of achieving your goals.
Making SMART resolutions, staying focused, and enjoying the process will not only get 2014 off to a great start, but will also help make the coming year the best yet. Give yourself a head start by signing up for a free Healthy UBC workshop titled ‘Laughter Yoga- an Introduction’ on January 17th 2014, 12-1pm, in Henry Angus Room 254. This workshop will help you put the ‘fun’ into functional!