Successful Lifestyle Change, Healthy Weight Initiative at Johns Hopkins All Children's

How does goal setting relate to healthy lifestyle behaviors?

One tool that can be helpful when first thinking about making any healthy lifestyle changes is goal setting. Evidence-based research shows that goal setting can help us make long lasting healthy lifestyle changes. Setting goals can increase motivation and can help increase accountability as well as help us trouble shoot potential barriers to success. Most of us will initially tend develop very broad goals such as “I want to eat healthier” or “I want to exercise more” when starting lifestyle change. Even though these are great goals, setting broad goals like these don’t always set us up for success. Developing SMART goals, meaning goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, can increase our motivation and set ourselves up to be successful.

What are SMART goals?

Before setting a SMART goal, it can be beneficial to think about specific areas you would like to focus on. For example, maybe you are involved with sports and activities, but could make some healthy diet changes. But instead of setting a goal such as “I want to eat healthier” we want to make the goal as Specific as possible, which is the S in SMART). When thinking about specific goals, we want to focus on a specific behavior that you have control over. Then, you want to focus on the M in SMART which means Measurable. Measurable means thinking about how many times or how long you will do the goal behavior. The next step is to focus on the A in SMART, which is Attainable. It’s important to make sure you are setting realistic goals that you are able to accomplish. The next step is to focus on the R in SMART, which is Relevant. It can be helpful to think about specific reasons accomplishing this goal is important to you. Everyone has different reasons for improving healthy lifestyle behaviors, so thinking about your specific reasons can increase motivation. The last step is to focus on the T in SMART which is Timely. Whenever we set a goal, it’s important to put a deadline on it. 

How can someone modify their SMART goal based on progress? 

If you notice that you didn’t quite meet your SMART goal, that means it may be helpful to tweak the goal slightly to make the goal more realistic for you to accomplish. If you have met your SMART goal, that’s great! Then you might adjust your goal so you are maintaining your goal behavior or adjusting (increasing or decreasing the target behavior) so you can make even more progress.

How can family members support each other? 

Families can help their child/children stay accountable and help encourage them to accomplish their set SMART goals. It can also be incredibly motivating for family members to participate in healthy lifestyle behavior goals together with their child/children. It can also be fun to do active activities together as a family.
Setting SMART goals is a central component to our Healthy Steps clinic and patient care. To find out more about our Healthy Steps clinic, click here

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