Gifting Ourselves with a Success Cycle SMART vs. Should

Written by Stacey London-Oshkello Registered Dietician, for the Brattleboro Reformer August 15, 2014

Doing what it takes to be healthy and maintain a healthy weight can sometimes feel overwhelming. Life can feel as if it is filled with a lot of "shoulds" that we may not identify with. Looking at what is intrinsically motivating us to make a change and setting appropriate goals can help us to slowly reach the optimal health we are craving.

Intrinsic motivation is defined as the motivation that is driving us internally; it is not what the doctor or the dietitian told us that we should do and usually doesn't involve the word 'should' at all.

Extrinsic motivation is motivation that is driving us from someone or something outside of ourselves. Intrinsic motivation inspires what we are most excited to do because it aligns so well with who we want to be. People are more likely to stick with changes that are based on intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic motivation.

Getting in touch with your intrinsic motivation and setting goals that move you in to the "success cycle" can actualize your goals and desires.

Once people tap into what is intrinsically motivating them to make a change, then they can begin to design SMART goals. SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Creating SMART goals helps people succeed.

When an overall goal is set, it is important to break it down in to smaller action steps. For example, if you want to lose weight as your overall goal, you can make that goal SMART by being more specific and setting a goal of losing 10 pounds in 2 months by going for a walk for 1 hour 3 times per week, and starting to eat vegetables at all meals.

This SMART goal is specific, measurable, and has a timeframe in which it can be reached. Each person must assess their goal to identify if it is attainable and realistic for them. Exercising 3 times per week for 1 hour may be attainable for some people, but for others finding a whole hour in their day to dedicate to exercise may not feel realistic.

Those people may need to set their goals smaller to help get them into the success cycle. Starting small can be the way to big results; it may be more appropriate for this person to set a goal of walking for 10 minutes 3 times a week and to regularly re-evaluate to see when they are ready to add more time for exercise.

SMART goals can help you commit to the steps of change that you are most ready for and feel good about.

Setting small, attainable goals moves us into the success cycle. When we succeed at meeting our goals, we feel accomplished, increase our self-esteem, and continue to do this activity. Setting goals that allow us to move into the success cycle is proven to promote success in many areas of life. When goals are unrealistic, we give up, feel bad about ourselves, and never attain the results we were hoping for.

Evaluating that exercise goal again--if we set a goal of walking 3 times per week for 1 hour and only manage to exercise 3 times a week for 20 minutes, we will feel like a failure and eventually give up. However, if we set a more realistic goal of walking 10 minutes 3 times a week and then realize that we exceeded that goal, we will feel good about ourselves and know that we can actually do this.

If one goes from doing no exercise at all to walking for 20 minutes 3 times a week, this can really improve one's health. This person has now moved into the success cycle and is likely to continue to engage in activities to reach their overall goal of weight loss, or whatever that goal may be for you.

Many studies have confirmed the benefits of making small changes toward improving one's health. Each small change can move you into the success cycle. What is it that you want for yourself, and what is one small, SMART step that you can take in order to manifest that goal?

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