Kelley Vargo by Kelley Vargo

People often have an idea of what they want to achieve in life, but they’re not always sure where to start. Whether it’s engaging in a new behavior such as exercise, eating healthfully or starting a business, without a direction, a plan, or a goal it is difficult to know how to begin. Goal setting is a way to eliminate this uncertainty. By implementing goal-setting strategies, aspirations and dreams are more likely to become reality because the connection between ideas and action can be made, managed and maintained. With that in mind, here are five tips for helping your clients achieve their goals, both big and small.

1. Set SMART goals. Implementing the SMART goal principle is one of my favorite ways to set goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Repeatable and Time-bound. By setting a SMART goal, goal setting becomes a tangible action as opposed to a vague aspiration. This strategy also takes goals and breaks them down to smaller steps. By implementing the SMART goal strategy, goal setting becomes realistic.

Set Goals

Here is an example of how to set a SMART goal. A client may say, “ My goal is to eat healthier.” That statement itself is vague and hard to evaluate from an objective perspective. Here’s an example of a SMART goal: “I will eat three servings of vegetables a day, five days a week for the next three months.” This new statement is specific and action-oriented (eat three servings of vegetables a day), repeatable (five days a week) and time-bound (the next three months). The SMART goal approach is useful for any type of goal, from training for a marathon to beginning a new workout regiment.

2. Write goals down on paper. Once a goal has been identified, it is important to write it down and place it somewhere visible. The act of writing (or typing) transforms ideas in the brain into words on paper, making them become visible and easier to remember.

3. Have a support system. Social support is a huge benefit when it comes to goal setting and adherence. Having a person or group of people working toward a similar goal provides meaningful support during challenging times. Whether it is walking partner, a group text message between friends, or a Facebook group set up to share tips for healthy eating, help your clients find ways to engage in social support for setting goals and sticking to them. Social media allows people to create support systems and make connections regardless distance, time and location.

Set Goals

4. Schedule regular check-ins. Encourage your clients to schedule regular check-in points to assess how they are doing and address any barriers they might be experiencing. Clients who are new to goal setting may become discouraged if they miss a day or a week of action-oriented steps. By setting personal or group check-ins, goals can be reinforced, action-oriented steps can be changed and motivation can be restored. Check-ins are also important for reassessing the goal itself to determine if the goal and action plan was too big, too small or just right.

5. Keep setting new goals. As mentioned previously, setting smart goals should always be time-bound. That means that, at some point, the current goal will be completed and a new goal should be set. This goal can complement or build upon the original goal or it can focus on a completely different area. Building upon previous goals can help your clients continue to work toward their greatest potential in the areas of life that are most important to them.