Set a SMALL goal

Set yourself up for success by setting SMALL goals.

Give yourself permission to try the goal out. Make it short term. That’s the S in SMALL — short term. If your goal is to dance to one song a day, set your intention to dance each day for the next week, or the next month. At the end of that time, you can then decide if you will continue, figure out what to tweak if you need to, or try something different if you want. You get to evaluate if it works for you and if you want to carry on.

If your goal is to meditate, you could set your time frame for the next 5 days or the next 5 weeks. Your walking goal could be just for this week. Focusing your efforts over a shorter time period can help you stay on goal. Make your goal SHORT TERM.

The next requirement is to make your goal manageable on the busiest of days. The M in SMALL is — manageable. If your goal is manageable on the busiest of days, you can smile when life happens and say “I did it anyway.” Maybe you decided you wanted to walk. Instead of saying you’ll walk for an hour, set your goal at 10 minutes or more. This way if you’re rushing from one appointment to another, you can fit a 10 minute walk in and celebrate. Or your goal could be just wearing the pedometer every day. Habitually wearing your pedometer is manageable and may even motivate you to park further away or take the stairs see the steps add up. Dancing to one song a day is almost always manageable even if you’re stuck in a chair — wave your arms to the beat. Make your goal MANAGEABLE.

The A in SMALL is — Active. The goal itself is taking the action. Losing 50 pounds is not an active goal as you can’t just walk down the street dropping pounds left and right. It takes many actions and choices to lose the weight. Focus on what actions and activities you want to take to support a healthier weight. A goal of dancing to one song a day is active. A goal of measuring or weighing your food is active. A goal of wearing your pedometer or getting at least 10 minutes of walking in every day is active. What action can you take? Will you? Make your goal ACTIVE.

The first L in SMALL is — lifestyle fit. Make your goal something you might do for a lifetime. Running a marathon might be a lifestyle fit but walking is more likely to be an everyday activity you can do for the rest of your life. Instead of banning all desserts, consider setting your goal at measuring your ice cream, or always splitting a dessert at a restaurant. The goal of weight loss is not to lose pounds but to gain a healthier lifestyle so you can enjoy each day. Make your goal a LIFESTYLE FIT.

The last L in SMALL is — leveraged. It may be hard to change habits so if you can leverage your small goal by building it on or around an existing habit or behavior you’ll be ahead of the game. Remembering to dance to one song in the middle of the day may be hit or miss but turning on the music while you’re waiting for the coffee to brew in the morning could be an easy fit. Using measuring spoons and ladles to serve your starches will give you an idea of portion size without trying; after all you have to scoop them anyway, so why not use a tool that measures portions. Placing your pedometer near your watch, keys, or phone can make it that much easier to remember to put it on. Set your goal so it’s LEVERAGED by actions you’re taking already.

Stop setting yourself up for failure. Instead of setting goals that may not work, set SMALL goals.

You could consider making your SMALL goals into habits you want to build or change. A note about habits – it does NOT take 21 days to build a habit. I’m not speaking from personal experience, there is research* that shows, on average, a habit takes 66 days to build. The actual number of days needed to build a specific habit will depend on you and the behavior.

The research found a range of 18 to 254 days (yes! yes! I so agree). Some participants were unable to build a habit as the research ended before the habit was formed (in other words, it can take a really long time). In general, healthy drinking habits (such as drinking water) were easier to build than exercising (running for 15 minutes or doing 50 sit-ups). What I found most interesting was that the eating habits were harder to create then both drinking and exercise. Hmmm, that might explain a few things.

Set SMALL goals:

Short term, for the next week or the next 30 days
Manageable on the busiest of days
Active, the goal itself is taking the action
Lifestyle fit, something you might do for a lifetime
Leveraged, built on, around, or in addition to an existing habit


How Long Does It Actually Take to Form a New Habit? (Backed by Science) Huffington Post

Busting the 21 days habit formation myth ‘Health Chatter’: The Health Behaviour Research Centre Blog

*How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world by Lally, van Jaarsveld, Potts, & Wardle, 2010