Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

February 2024
Happy family interacting on playground

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Jennifer Loggins, M.S. LPC CPCS, The Wings Center at Eagle Ranch

So often, the start of a new year gives us a fresh start and renewed motivation to set a “resolution,” an intention, a goal, and to re-focus on how we want to grow moving forward.All of these can be positive things. However, it is important to listen to how we are talking to ourselves, our inner dialogue.

Are we beating ourselves up for things we didn’t accomplish last year? Are we using mean “inner bully” language to try and motivate fitness, weight loss, career goals or other changes? Are you setting goals that are too hard on yourself? If so, it is important to realize that psychology research doesn’t support that kind of negative self-talk to make sustained changes. The inner “boot camp instructor” often leads to self-sabotage.  

Instead, try speaking to yourself with compassion, like you would talk to a friend or small child to encourage them that they can do this and use curiosity to determine why maybe things haven’t worked out in the past. Often, we self-sabotage our goals in ways that we don’t realize, from being too hard on ourselves, to setting goals that are too vague or too extreme, or simply not taking the time to making a step-by-step plan to change small habits that lead over time to big changes. Baby steps are a great way to start towards any goal!  

If we start from a place of loving kindness towards ourselves and get curious about what hasn’t worked in the past and why, then we can move toward making and effectively implementing S.M.A.R.T. goals.

What are S.M.A.R.T. goals? They are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

An example of a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be “I want to increase family connection by having a family pizza and game night once per week on Friday nights from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m. We will do this for one month and assess if the day and time is working well for everyone and if we want to change anything to make it work better.” This goal will be more effective than“I want my family to be get along better.” (too vague, no plan) or “I’m going to hang out with my kids every single night for 6 hours.” (too lofty, vague and not achievable with real life constraints).   

And remember, if you don’t want to set a resolution, that is ok too. Sometimes self-compassion means saying “I’m already doing the best I can. Maybe I’m doing too much, and I need to give myself a break or let something go instead of adding something new.” Maybe you are in a season of being over-scheduled, overstressed and your goal should be taking something off your plate rather than adding something more that requires effort you do not have to give. Doing less, resting and relaxing more is a completely valid and healthy goal.  

Are you self-compassionate? To take the Self Compassion Test, review the research on self-compassion, or tofind guided self-compassion personal growth meditations and exercises, visit:

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