Before you think about making changes you need to ask yourself why you're thinking about making a change at all. Is it because you have a goal you want to work towards? Read more about the importance of setting personal goals.
Goal setting is one of the best ways to help you make changes. It's a good skill to learn and can be used in many areas of your life, not just when thinking about your health and wellbeing.
People at the Mayo Clinic in the US have come up with an acronym to help with setting SMART goals. The letters in SMART stand for:
- Specific: Eating healthier sounds like a good idea. But what does it really mean? Aim for specific goals instead, such as not having any fizzy drink for the week, filling ½ your plate with vegetables, eating 5 servings of fruit (limited to 2) and vegetables a day, or swapping out sugar for sugar-free options in your coffee/tea or on your breakfast cereal.
- Measurable: Make your goal one you can measure. Walking for 20 minutes 3 days a week is a goal you can track; a goal of ‘walking more’ is less easy to keep track of. Read more about the benefits of walking.(external link)
- Attainable: Avoid aiming too high or too low. Think like Goldilocks, and find a goal that feels just right.
- Realistic: Losing a couple of kilos a week sounds great. But it’s an impossible goal that will likely leave you discouraged – and more likely to give up on your efforts. Choosing realistic goals(external link)(external link) that you can meet will reinforce your efforts and keep you moving forward. In this case losing half a kilo a week is more likely.
- Trackable/Time-bound: Choosing specific, measurable goals means you can track your progress over time. Write your efforts down in a journal or track them on an app so you can see how far you’ve come. Time-bound means that you set a goal that's achievable within a set time frame, eg, within 3 months or within a year.
Sometimes people set too many goals, which can result in not achieving any of them. Achieving the first one, however small, will build your confidence then you can set another one.
Te Kete Haerenga is a wellness toolkit and it has more information on setting goals. It also provides examples of goals and how to make SMART ones in specific areas. eg, sleep, stress, fatigue and pain.
There are also many goal setting and action planning apps and online tools for you to choose from.