By Dr Karen Hallam

When we take time to consider the things in life that are most meaningful to us, our answers may vary a bit but will likely include things like family, health, security, happiness, and connection as a foundation. When we have identified what gives us meaning, it is often easy to set a goal to help make this happen.

Sometimes though, it’s not so easy to make changes happen. For example, Stephanie finds being physically healthy very meaningful. In turn, she may (correctly!) identify the goal of doing exercise daily to become healthier. So why is she finding it so hard to begin or stick with a regular exercise routine to make this goal a reality?

One of the big reasons we struggle to stick with big goals, even if they mean a lot to us, is that they are often quite far away in time and/or level of effort between here and there. Because it seems so far away it can feel overwhelming and daunting to begin or we can lose sight of that distant goal when other things in life get in the way.

Overcoming roadblocks

In practice, we have developed a simple way of breaking down daunting long-term goals into do-able short- term actions, and these are called SMART Goals.  SMART Goals help us set many goals on the way to a larger goal. This tends to feel less daunting and more motivating, particularly as we begin to see all the goals along the way add up while the end goal becomes closer. So, let’s see how Stephanie’s fitness journey can begin with just one SMART Goal.

S – Specific and simple

Stephanie has decided to begin with walking her dog

M – Measurable to track progress and stay motivated

Stephanie is using her Fitbit to get feedback that she is walking 6,000 steps

A – Achievable and within current capacity

Stephanie is currently is doing this walk 2x a week and is increasing to 4x a week

R – Realistic based on where you are now

Stephanie’s considered whether she has the time, fitness and motivation for this goal

T -Time limited

Stephanie will have reached her goal if she can do this for four weeks

This all makes for a very clear and achievable goal. Notably, the goal will also double her exercise efforts over only four weeks. This will give Stephanie some success and she can tick off the first goal on her journey to fitness. After achieving the first goal, we can set a new SMART Goal and take more steps on our journey to what is meaningful.

Remember, if we don’t achieve our SMART Goals that’s OK and important information. We just need to revise what happened against out SMART measures and re-set the goal to match our new information from our first attempt. Finally, it’s worth noting the old proverb was right, ‘the longest journey starts with a single step’ and to keep working towards what you hold meaningful.

More info on SMART Goals: