Start the New Year S.M.A.R.T.!

​Lisa Connor, MS, RN and Assistant Manager for Health Plus, discusses motivation and S.M.A.R.T. goal setting.  She shares the the importance of and components of setting SMART goals and tips for achieving SMART goals in the New Year.

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Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I'm Bridgette Butler with Health Plus.  A new year is a great time for creating new goals, and when setting your goals, it is best to make them S-M-A-R-T, smart!  Here to discuss SMART goals with us is Lisa Connor, Registered Nurse and Assistant Manager of Health Plus.  Welcome, Lisa.

Lisa Connor:  Thank you so much.  I'm happy to be with you today to talk about goal setting.  One of the most important things that we, as coaches, talk to people about when they are setting goals are their motivators, and it's good to take a step back for just a minute before you set a goal and think about what your motivators are.  A couple of questions that I like to ask people are, "What are your three best reasons for making a change in this area?"  It helps you to get at the heart of why this is important to you.  And then another question you can ask is, "What's at stake if you don't change?"  Then, once you've thought about your motivators, you can go on to set a SMART goal.  It's more of an action goal.  Small steps can help you get where you want to be and help you begin to see yourself as the person you want to become.

Bridgette Butler:  I know a lot of people are thinking about this at this time of year, so that is wonderful to start thinking about your motivations even before creating the goals for yourself.

Lisa Connor:  For sure!  So, S-M-A-R-T.  The "S" stands for "specific."  It answers the what, where, how, and when of your goal, and you want to be as specific as you can be when you set goals.  Then, make them "measurable."  You want to include measurements and tracking details for you goal so that you'll know if you've reached it.  That's the only way to know.  Make them "action-based."  They want to be an action instead of an outcome that you'll see.  So, instead of saying, "I'll lose weight," you think about the actions you will take to lose weight.  Make them "realistic."  Your goals should be challenging to you, but it should still be reachable.  You may want to think about how confident you are in reaching that goal when you set it.  That helps you to make it reachable.  If you're not confident you can do it, you may want to tweak it and make it something that is more realistic.  Then, the "T" stands for "time-bound."  If you set a time that you will have done your goal by, then, again, you'll know you've reached it.

Bridgette Butler:  That's great that we actually have an acronym to go by with each goal that we are setting to make it specific, measurable, action-based, realistic, and time-bound.  So, first, understanding what our motivators are, then setting the SMART goal, and then after you create a SMART goal, what should you do?

Lisa Connor: It's great if you can set reminders for yourself that will keep your goal clearly in your mind.  You can post your goal in an area where you will see it often, maybe at your desk, or on a bathroom mirror, or it may be on a magnet on your refrigerator, or using your cell phone reminders in a way that can help you with your goal.  Then, each week, set aside some time to see how you are doing.  Assess your progress.  If things aren't going like you want, you may need to make some adjustments.  It really helps if you can think of your plan as being an experiment.  It's not a pass and fail, but it's an experiment to find what works and what doesn't, and if something is working, keep doing more of it, and if it's not, tweak it and make it more doable.

Bridgette Butler:  Those are great tips, so, to then take action on your SMART goal once you've created it, and also to make sure that it is the right goal for you and that you are going to be able to achieve it in a way that is doable for you.  What does a SMART goal look like as opposed to how we typically set goals?

Lisa Connor:  A couple of examples that I can think of are ... a typical goal may be, "I am going to start exercising this year."  If it's a SMART goal, it's going to be more specific, and measurable, action-based, realistic, and time-bound.  So, something like, "I will walk for 15 minutes five days a week," is SMART.  It answers all those questions and you will be able to know if you did it or not by the end of the week.  Another goal you might think of as a typical goal is, "I'm going to stop drinking sodas; we know they are not healthy, so I am just going to stop."  A smarter goal that is more realistic may be, "I will cut back to only one soda a week."  That way you'll know, did I do it, am I getting toward my goal?

Bridgette Butler:  That's a very important point, to keep it realistic, to make sure that it is something that we are going to be able to achieve that is going to benefit us.  And Lisa, do you have a SMART goal for the New Year that you can share with us?

Lisa Connor:  My SMART goal is to be sure that I am getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week and that may be more of a vague goal, but I would like to try to get at least 30 minutes of walking five times a week.

Bridgette Butler:  That's a wonderful goal and hitting the recommended target for exercise.  That's fantastic.  Good luck to you and thank you so much for sharing this information on creating and acting on SMART goals with us.

Lisa Connor:  Thank you.  I enjoyed it.

Bridgette Butler:  Thanks for listening.  If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at, or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at