New Year is the time when many reflect and take stock, a time to set intentions and goals for the coming year. Social media is littered with goal setting quotes, mantras, affirmation, and the conversations often move to SMART goals. If you need a reminder these are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (there are other interpretations of this) but does this modelling fit with health and wellbeing?
This is a question I am becoming more intrigued by. Breaking it down, having a goal gives us something to work to, it gives us something to be able to look back on and assess our progress and celebrate achievements.
Considering health and wellbeing, I prefer to look at lifestyle changes that can be to obtain and maintain a healthier outlook and outcome. For me (and my clients) it is often not a tangible goal such as:
It is March and I am running n the local marathon, to achieve this I have used a training program to help me feel confident to complete the run successfully.
Note: feel confident – this I believe is the key factor. How you feel.
I have had many conversations with friends and clients about getting fitter, they say they want to loose weight to feel and look their best for their 2-week summer holiday. They join a gym. They take classes. They increase their activity. They have treatments – prepping their skin and hair. All is in tip top condition. However, the holiday comes and goes, along with all the effort they put in. They down tools, stop looking after their health and wellbeing – until the next holiday is organised and repeat. They don’t see themselves as a yo-yo dieter (we are all familiar with that phrase), but they are repeating a similar pattern. I hear the disappoint in their voices when they talk about the effort each time, they don’t enjoy the journey and see the end goal as that. And end to their pain, effort and almost look forward to a return to their more sloth like status. (nothing wrong with sloths by the way!)
In a similar vein, clients who arrive in the therapy room with stress related issues – poor sleep, lack of drive, tiredness, back ache find themselves in a time warp. They book a few treatments and get back on track. All good – their goal was to sleep better within a period of time – they believe the problem is solved. The magic hands have done their job and they achieve their goal….. but did they?
I see these clients return, sometimes after a break, anything from 3-12 months later. They are back to square one. The sleep issues are back, back ache returned and general lack of energy reigns. Why is this ….I believe they previously focused on one issue, they didn’t look at the cause. Its not surprising, in society we are always looking for the quick fix, the easy option and a miracle that turns the damage caused to our wellbeing over years of neglecting ourselves within as little effort as possible. I often have conversations with clients about lifestyle changes but until they are ready to make real change, it’s a continued repeat of the proverbial sticking plaster. Clearly as a therapist I can treat and repeat, but ideally I love it when a client wants to make real change. Looking into lifestyle we can consider the factors causing their issue. In real terms this is not goal setting but permanent change of health and wellbeing.
Consider – how do you want to feel?
- Tired or full of energy
- Sad or happy
- Angry and stressed or calm
- Unwell or well
- Short term fixes or lifestyle change
The answer of the question ‘is there an issue with SMART goals?,’ is there may be. It depends on what you are dealing with but rather than aiming for a ‘better holiday body’ (whatever the heck that is) I challenge you to aim for a healthier you where longevity, vigour, contentment and living life to the full every day – not just in short bursts.