Outsmart Your Diabetes by Setting SMART Goals
A diagnosis of diabetes usually comes with a list of recommended lifestyle changes. To make these diet and exercise changes a reality, consider turning them into SMART goals.
A goal gives you something to aim for. SMART goals tell you exactly where you are going, how and when you will get there, and why the effort is worth your while.
“If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable,” wrote the philosopher Seneca. No doubt, Seneca would endorse the idea of SMART goals: those that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-oriented.
- Specific. Goals should be written in simple, clear terms that define exactly what you are going to do. For example:
“I’m going to lose 12 pounds” (instead of “lose some weight”).
- Measurable. Goals, and steps toward goals, need to be measurable so you know when you have completed one. For example: “I will walk for 20 minutes three mornings per week for two months; then 20 minutes five mornings per week.”
- Attainable. Goals must be achievable; they should be challenging but within reach. For example:
“I will lose at least 2 lbs per month.”
Relevant. Goals are motivating when tied to something that you value. For example:
“I want to lose weight to manage my blood sugar and prevent health complications, and so I have more energy to play with the kids/grandkids.”
Time-oriented. Goals are most helpful when linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, otherwise known as a deadline. For example:
“I will lose 12 pounds by Oct. 1, six months from now and before my next A1C test.”
If you have difficulty keeping your SMART goal, it may be that you need to start smaller. It is better to start tiny and build on mini-successes, than to start big and give-up. For instance, walking for 10 minutes three days per week may be a more attainable and realistic starting point than walking for 20 minutes. Think small and doable.
Ensuring SMART Success
To help yourself succeed, it is recommended you plan for obstacles and setbacks, let others in on your goal(s), build on your successes, and reward yourself when you reach a destination.
Make up your mind to meet setbacks with a realistic but non-judgmental assessment. For instance, accept that you talked yourself out of walking today, remind yourself that every journey toward a goal has zigs and zags, and recommit to walking tomorrow.
When obstacles occur, such as it is raining too hard to walk outside, make a contingency plan that you can use in the future. A walking-in-place video would make a good substitute for walking outdoors when the weather turns nasty.
Recruit cheerleaders and fellow travelers. It always helps to have others cheering us on. Let supportive family and friends in on your goals. Their encouragement may be just what you need on days when your motivation is flagging.
It also helps to share a goal with someone. Maybe you can recruit a friend to exercise with you, or to join you in learning to bake with sugar substitutes.
As you become comfortable and more confident in what you are accomplishing, try mixing things up to keep yourself motivated. For instance, instead of walking five days per week you might walk four days and take a yoga or water aerobics class on the fifth day.
When you complete a goal, treat yourself to something that brings a smile to your face – maybe a new outfit, a massage, or a night at the theater.
Photo credit: JUMP at flickr