By: Krista Hoose

‘Tis the season for setting goals! Whether or not you dub it a New Year’s resolution, the dawn of a new year is a great time to map out a plan toward what you would like to achieve. The sky’s the limit, too—goal-setting applies in all aspects of life, not just in the fitness and nutrition realms. Here are some considerations for setting healthy goals and tips for sticking with them.

Many corporate execs and fitness gurus alike talk about making SMART goals. Why? Because the process of setting a specific goal sets you up for success. According to the Mind Tools Content Team on tools for time management, when a goal is SMART, it is said to be (n.d., para. 6):

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable)
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-sensitive)

Some have expanded the acronym to SMARTER by adding:

  • Evaluated
  • Reviewed

Let’s dive a little further on how to apply this process by taking in some considerations at each step. When setting a specific goal, take into consideration the following questions: what is it I would like to achieve; why is it important to me; who all is involved; where is it located or where can it be achieved; and which resources are available (Mind Tools Content Team, n.d.)? This not only clearly defines the goal but also establishes why it is important. Next, a goal should have a way to track its progress; it should be measurable. This can be quantitatively measured or defined in such a way that you know when it has been achieved. A goal should be achievable. Ask yourself whether the goal is realistically attainable given all constraints that may arise, and if so, how the goal can be achieved. This is a good step to check whether all resources are available and to map out or outline what the process will be to reach the goal (Mind Tools Content Team, n.d.).


The goal should be relevant and important to you. It is hard to get motivated to do something you do not really want to do, so find your “why”. Analyze whether the time and resources necessary to reach the goal are worth the result. Is it the right time in general to be going after said goal? Lastly, a time-bound goal has a specific timeline. The advantage is that this may require prioritization and time management to focus on the goal. Important questions to ask are: what is my time frame? When will I start? What are the short-term steps along the way, if any (Mind Tools Content Team, n.d.). In this way, a clearly defined goal can be set with a clear path on how to get there.

To make a goal SMARTER, add in steps for evaluation and revision (Mind Tools Content Team, n.d.). The evaluation step could define checkpoints along the timeline to assess progress. Is the goal still important? Are the resources needed still available and lasting? What modifications, if any, are needed and why? Revisions can be made based on analyzing progress, and the goal could be broken down into smaller short-term goals.

There are some who say the SMART process is self-limiting. Lei Wang (2017), an international adventurer, motivational speaker, and author, writes that “there are six primary problems inherent in SMART goals” (para. 6). Rather than focusing on the big picture, a SMART goal may lead one to set their sights too narrow. Setting such a goal may lead to defining the result as either a success or a failure, rather than taking into account all the steps and potential “wins or losses” along the way—learning from the journey itself. Setting a short-term SMART goal might sabotage one’s long-term success. What effect do the actions to achieve the goal have in the long-run? A SMART goal could become so encompassing that it becomes all-or-nothing, which may result in giving up to soon or becoming consuming. It could also limit a person from reaching full potential by stopping at a certain point and lacking an element of challenge. Lastly, if not taken into great consideration, “Realistic” and “Attainable” could be confused (Wang, 2017). What is the cost of attaining such a goal, and is it worth it? Is the goal realistic for you individually without being overly ambitious? These are some considerations that can be utilized even when using the SMART process.

Whether set as a SMART(ER) goal or not, goal-setting requires time, consideration, and planning in order to be successful. According to writer and registered dietitian Susan McQuillan (2019), one tip to reach your goal is to write it down. Take a moment each morning (or the night before) to journal your plan for the day. This will keep the motivation going and allow for evaluation of progress, both in terms of shorter goals and the long-term goal. Recognize that every day will not always bring positive progress, and that it is okay. Be able to acknowledge limitations. Once a limitation is recognized, accept that it may be a hurdle. Evaluate the why and how, and plan for it, if possible. Reevaluate whether your expectations are reasonable based on any limitations.

McQuillan (2019) suggests analyzing how you talk to yourself. Are you kind? Would you say the same things to your best friend? If you find yourself being negative, flip the script and reword it in a positive way. Changing the energy from negative to positive may renew motivation and attract a more positive chain of events. As importantly, do not do anything you do not want to do just to achieve the goal. For example, if your goal is fitness-related and going to the gym is less than desirable, find another way to incorporate fitness into your lifestyle that you do enjoy doing.

Start slow and ease into the changes necessary to achieve your goal. It is easy to get excited and dive right in, but is the pace realistic and sustainable? Will it lead to burnout? Furthermore, do not stress over mistakes or setbacks (McQuillan 2019). Learn from the journey and move on with valuable knowledge. Allow yourself to enjoy and celebrate small victories along the way.

Lastly, surround yourself with a support group (McQuillan 2019). A support group could consist of individuals who understand what you are going through or what you are working toward achieving. Their positivity is motivating and they help you feel good about yourself. The entire team at UFit is trained in goal-setting and available not only as a resource but also as a support group excited to support you along the way!


The UFit Team