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5 Rules for setting SMART goals

This is an excerpt from Health Opportunities Through Physical Education by Charles Corbin, Karen McConnell, Guy Le Masurier, David Corbin, and Terri Farrar.

SMART Goals

You may have learned about SMART goals in middle school. Here’s a quick review to help you remember the five rules for setting goals as you work your way through this book and set your own goals.

  • S = specific. Your goal should include details of what you want to accomplish.
  • M = measurable. You should be able to measure your progress and accurately determine whether you’ve accomplished your goal.
  • A = attainable. Your goals should challenge you. They should not be too easy or too hard.
  • R = realistic. You should be able to reach your goal if you put in the time and effort and have the necessary resources.
  • T = timely. Your goal should be useful to you at this time in your life and can be met in the time allotted.

SMART Long-Term Goals

Long-term goals take you months or even years to accomplish, whereas you can reach short-term goals in a short time, such as a few days or weeks. One example of a long-term goal is saving money to help pay for college expenses. If you plan to save $2,400, you could make your long-term goal earning that amount.

 

In order to earn that much, you might have to work on weekends and during summers throughout high school. Saving money takes time. If your job allowed you to save $100 a month, it would take you two years to save the $2,400. Now let’s see whether this would be a SMART goal.

  • Specific. $2,400 is a very specific long-term goal. You know the amount of money you need.
  • Measurable. The $2,400 goal is measurable. You can count your money to see how close you are to reaching your goal.
  • Attainable. The goal might be too hard for a person without a job, but you have one. It won’t be easy, but you make enough money each hour to make your goal possible.
  • Realistic. For someone else, the $2,400 goal might not be realistic. But if you put in the time and stick with your job, saving $100 a month for two years is possible. You must also consider other commitments, such as homework, activities, and family responsibilities.
  • Timely. The goal of saving $2,400 in two years has a specific and workable time line that fits your planned entrance into college.

SMART Short-Term Goals

Short-term goals can usually be reached in a few days or weeks. Thus you might set a series of short-term goals to help you accomplish a long-term goal. For example, to meet your long-term goal of saving $2,400, you might set a short-term goal of working five hours a week at $8 an hour for two weeks. Doing so would be a manageable way to start working toward meeting your long-term goal. After completing this short-term goal, you could establish a new one.

Let’s now consider whether this short-term goal would be a SMART one.

  • Specific. You’ve made the goal specific by listing the number of weeks and the number of hours worked per week.
  • Measurable. You can measure your progress toward the goal by tracking your work hours each week.
  • Attainable. Your short-term goal is attainable because it depends only on your making the effort to fulfill your work schedule. You could have set a goal of working more hours per week, but that might not be attainable.
  • Realistic. Setting a realistic number of work hours depends on other factors, such as homework, activities, and family responsibilities. However, you have the time to work five hours a week and still meet other responsibilities, so this is a realistic goal.
  • Timely. Working five hours a week for two weeks is a timely goal because you’ve specified the time frame for completing the goal and it fits your current schedule.

Product and Process Goals

The long-term goal of earning $2,400 is a product goal. A product is something tangible that results from work or effort. It’s not what you do, but what you get as a result of what you do. Examples of product goals for fitness, health, and wellness include being able to perform 25 push-ups, being able to run a mile in six minutes, and losing five pounds (figure 3.1a). In each case, the goal is a product or outcome of work and effort. Product goals make appropriate long-term goals because it may take you a fair amount of work and time to reach them.

 

Process goals involve performing a behavior, such as working a certain number of hours to earn money. Process refers to what you do rather than to the product resulting from what you do. Examples for fitness, health, and wellness include exercising 60 minutes and eating five fruits and vegetables every day (figure 3.1b). Process goals make good short-term goals because you can easily monitor your progress and, with effort, succeed. In contrast, product goals do not make especially good short-term goals, because they can be discouraging, especially for a person who is just beginning to change. For example, if you chose a product goal of performing, say, 25 push-ups, it might (depending on your current fitness level) take you so long to meet the goal that you would give up. But a short-term process goal - such as performing 5 to 10 push-ups each day for two weeks - would be possible for you to achieve with effort. Thus, as you meet a series of short-term process goals, you work toward meeting long-term product goals.





Figure 3.1 Product and process goals: (a) Running a mile in eight minutes is a product goal, and (b) doing five push-ups a day for three weeks is a process goal.

Read more from Health Opportunities Through Physical Education by Charles Corbin, Karen McConnell, Guy Le Masurier, David Corbin, and Terri Farrar

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