Going the distance

Get SMART about your goals

By Edward T. Creagan, M.D. January 27, 2016

Need more help?

If the stress in your life is more than you can cope with, get help right away.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
    1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Go to the nearest hospital or emergency room
  • Call your physician, health provider or clergy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness
    1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Memberships in health clubs skyrocket during January. Weight loss programs are oversubscribed. Health and beauty products fly off the shelf, and everyone is ready to turn over a new leaf. That's the good news, but here's the bad news.

Within several months, memberships at health clubs drop off. The weight loss never occurs, and most of us mindlessly lapse back into our previous behaviors. So what can we do to change this pattern?

Obviously, maintaining motivation is struggle. So let's look at what we can learn from some experts in this area.

A technique for behavior change that has achieved considerable success is called "SMART." Here's what it involves:

  • Specific. Having a specific goal is the key. Getting fit, for example, is a pretty general goal. Running a marathon is a more specific goal, but even you can be even more specific by including in that goal the training you'll need to do.
  • Measurable. You need to make your goal measurable. In the case of running, this would be how many miles you will run a week.
  • Attainable. The goal must be attainable. For example, climbing Mount Everest is not attainable for all but a few individuals.
  • Realistic (or relevant). Climbing Mount Everest is not realistic or relevant for me. Setting that goal would be setting myself up for failure.
  • Timed. What are the milestones to achieve your goal? Again I'll use myself as an example. As an amateur piano player I must make a timetable so that by X number of weeks I can comfortably play X number of songs I hope to perform at a public venue.

Now this SMART formula is certainly not a recipe for success but at least it's a guide. It can help you keep on target to achieve your goals, whether personal or professional.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Join the discussion at #Stress.

Jan. 27, 2016