By Alissa Strong

What’s the difference between a desire and a goal?  When we think about changing something that’s important to us – or habitual – it’s hard to imagine where to start.  

When I sit down with a patient to clarify their health goals, we spend some time talking together about two things:

  1. What is it they really want to accomplish?
  2. What is motivating and inspiring to them right now?

There may be lots of things that you think you “should” work on. What you need to consider is where you can start.  

SMART Goals

Change is possible when you’re specific and clear about your long-term goals: What do you want to be different in three months, six months, or a year? In coaching, we establish a few long-term goals that you hope to reach, and over time we break those large goals up into mini-goals or baby steps.

Vera health coaches use SMART goals to help patients progress toward their goals and desires.

  • Specific – Exactly what is it you want to achieve?
  • Measurable – Can you track it and measure the result?
  • Action-oriented – What actions and behaviors are needed?
  • Realistic – Your goal can be stretching, but are you willing and able to do it?
  • Time-Bound – Your goal has a timeframe or deadline.

An example of a poorly written goal is:

“I will walk more during the week.”

Here’s a SMART goal:

“I will walk at a moderate pace at least 20 minutes three times a week after work.

In a given week, if you’re unable to achieve your small, SMART goal, look at why. What’s challenging? Do you look forward to it? What can you adjust so that you are successful? Establish goals that are realistic for your lifestyle and that pique your interest, even if it’s a small start.

Sticking With It

Some people fear working with a coach because they haven’t had success with a goal in the past – this could be weight loss, quitting smoking, or any number of things. In coaching, we don’t see this as a “failure” but more as an experiment. For instance – you could try changing one thing in your diet for a couple of weeks, and if it doesn’t work, you can try something else. It isn’t failure; it’s trial and correction.

Tracking your progress and success is important when working towards a goal. In a baseball game, we cheer for each run that comes across home plate. We sigh if someone strikes out, knowing there’s another chance at bat. In the same way, we don’t need to concentrate on winning the whole game or championship, but rather celebrate each small victory that gets us closer to our goal.  Acknowledge small wins, focus on baby steps, and know that sustainable change takes time.  

It’s also helpful to tell someone else. Some people say that if they tell someone else their goal, they’re more likely to do it. Coaches are helpful accountability partners, but you can also depend on a friend, coworker, or significant other as a check-in buddy for your goals.

Finally, make sure your goal is interesting to you.  If drinking more water is your goal and you hate the taste of water, think about how to make yourself look forward to your goal, and be creative. Could you add fruit to your water, start brewing tea at work, or try out a new brand of sparkling water?  

Ultimately, we want to help make sure your goals feel attainable and to help you build the confidence that you can achieve them. Making your goals SMART, tracking your progress, and having an accountability partner are all strategies that can turn a desire into lasting change.