SMART Goal Setting and Achieving
Which of the following diabetes goals do you think has the best chance to make a difference in your health right now?
1) "I want to lose 40 pounds."
2) "I want to lower my A1C."
3) "I want to cut out second helpings for the next month."
The answer may surprise you. While numbers one and two may be great objectives to aim for, it's the third item that has all the makings of a S.M.A.R.T. diabetes goal – one that is specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and timely. S.M.A.R.T. goals are more likely to move you towards better diabetes health because you are more likely to work on them and achieve them, by design.
What is a S.M.A.R.T. Goal?
Think of S.M.A.R.T. goals as good health habits that move you closer to the place you want to be with your diabetes care. An A1C of less than 7 percent may be an outcome you want to achieve. S.M.A.R.T. goals are small steps that can get you closer to that long-term outcome.
Vague or general goals like "I want to get healthier" just don't work. Pick one specific thing you want to change to get healthier and commit to it.
Whether it's testing two more times a day, walking an extra ten minutes after dinner, or just trying something out once, if applicable your goal should have a number attached to it so you can be sure you reach it.
Action-Oriented and Achievable
A good goal involves doing something – taking action to make it happen. For example, wearing your pedometer and writing down your steps every day for a month.
Goals that involve very high expectations or drastic changes are typically doomed to failure. "Slashing my A1C in half" is not a good goal to start your journey with. A realistic goal is one that the goal setter is fairly certain they are able to reach in the short term if they set their mind to it.
Finally, whenever possible, goals should include a definite time frame. When setting that time frame, keep the "realistic" part of goal setting in mind. Sometimes the longer the timeframe, the more unrealistic the goal may seem. Starting with a short time period, such as two weeks, to take on a new health habit gives you the opportunity to try it out without a scary long-term commitment. And once you achieve your goal and realize you can do it, you can always extend the timeframe further.
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I had a work dinner last night with some leadership from my office. I always find diabetes etiquette at these things to be kind of tricky. It was a four course meal, with salad, soup, entree' and dessert and coffee. There was also a selection of gluten free and non-gluten free dinner rolls. I felt way too full of questions for waitress... "Could I get my dressing on the side? How much sugar is in it?" A course later...