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Setting SMART health goals: Be clever about your well-being

May 26, 2022 - 20 min read


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What is the SMART method of goal setting?

What are health goals?

3 types of health goals

Why are health goals so important?

How to set health goals using the SMART method

6 examples of health goals

6 tips to succeed at your SMART health goals

6 extra tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Moving forward with your goal setting

At work, we have deadlines for the things we want to accomplish. Our managers check in on our key metrics and hold us accountable. In our personal lives, though, many of us find it difficult to set SMART health goals. 

When it comes to well-being, you might not have specific goals. Maybe you just want to have more energy or feel happier. But ask yourself, how long have you been trying to prioritize your health? Has it been tough to see progress over the years? If the answer is yes, we have good news: that’s about to change.

It’s time to learn about SMART health goals. SMART goals set you up for success by following a proven framework. While they still rely on your effort and action, this framework can help you find the organization and focus you need to start hitting your goals. 

We’re here to help you learn what SMART health goals are. We’ll also provide some examples of SMART goals related to your health. If you're ready to start building a sustainable, healthy lifestyle, let’s dive in.

What is the SMART method of goal setting?

The SMART goal method is a framework that helps people create a clearly defined and detailed plan for succeeding at their goals. It’s an acronym that stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

This method has been praised for encouraging people to write down their goals. It’s also known to help people commit themselves to the steps necessary for success — most of us usually pick a goal without actually thinking about those steps.

Creating a plan and using a system like this can keep you focused and accountable as you work towards your goals.

You can use the SMART goal method for any short-term or long-term goal. Whether for professional or personal purposes, having a clearly defined plan always helps.

When you set out to achieve your goals, you don’t want to be confused or unsure about your next move. You need a plan of action to keep you from growing discouraged or feeling directionless. That’s why SMART health goals can help you achieve a higher level of well-being.

What are health goals?

Health is all about the condition of our bodies and minds. That said, our health has many layers. Mental, physical, and social health all contribute to our overall well-being. We can’t be truly healthy if we neglect one of these areas. Everything is connected.   

Most of us create health goals so that we can develop healthy habits. Maybe you want to feel confident or boost your overall wellness. Everyone has unique goals — what matters is that your health goals are sustainable, realistic, and don’t stray from your core values.

They should lead to some lifestyle changes, but they shouldn’t completely change your identity.

Change isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can be great. If you need extra support during the process, BetterUp can help you make changes that empower you to live a healthy, sustainable life.

3 types of health goals

Since health covers such a broad range of topics, let’s break it down. You can split your SMART health goals into three distinct categories: physical, mental, and social.

1. Physical health goals

These goals are all about your physical well-being and what you’re able to do with your body. SMART goals for physical health can be related to strength training, like setting a goal to increase how much you can lift.

Or they can be about gradually building endurance so that you can complete a marathon. Paying attention to your physical health is an important part of sustaining your mental fitness amid life's ups and downs as well.

Maybe you want to lose weight or walk up the stairs without losing your breath. You may want to readjust from a segmented sleep schedule. Whatever it is, making your physical health goals fit the SMART framework can help you achieve them faster.


2. Mental health goals

Mental health is something we all need to prioritize. Goals related to mental health can address your emotional regulation, how you manage stress levels, and how you deal with your inner critic. You can also build some buffer in your life by creating good self-care habits.

Some good mental health goals could be learning how to say no to people, taking more time to yourself, or signing up for therapy.

3. Social health goals

Some of us struggle with creating and maintaining relationships, and that’s okay. Social health goals can help improve this area of your life. These goals are focused on developing and sustaining meaningful, loving, and respectful relationships.

If you’re looking to include social health goals in your goal setting, you’ll be thinking of goals like learning to set boundaries, express yourself, or be a better listener.


Why are health goals so important?

We need to set health goals because if you don’t prioritize your health, you can’t meet your full potential. Your wellness goals can open you up to new opportunities, fill you with a sense of pride, and build self-confidence. 

You’ll even reap the benefits of being healthier at work. Excelling in your career demands your best self. Health goals will help you get there — when you achieve your SMART health goals, you’ll have more energy and confidence at work. 

Social health goals specifically will allow us to foster strong professional relationships. Plus, they’ll help us be more effective and autonomous in the workplace.

Mental health goals will ensure that we don’t burn ourselves out at work and keep our well-being in order. And finally, our physical goals will help with our stress management and focus.

How to set health goals using the SMART method

Sometimes you’re presented with a wonderful framework, but you still feel stuck. We’re here to walk you through exactly how to use the SMART method. To get started, try to answer the questions below about each of your new goals:

  • Specific: What do you want to achieve? What will the outcome of your goal look like? Specific goals are easier to focus on. Try creating a vision statement to narrow the scope if you're stuck. 
  • Measurable: Is this a goal that you can track? How will you do that, and what progress do you want to see over time? 
  • Attainable: Be honest with yourself. Is this goal attainable? If it’s not, go back to the drawing board and try to think of something more achievable for you at the moment.
  • Relevant: Before you begin pursuing your goals, make sure they’re relevant and realistic. As you work toward achieving them, things may change, so make sure you adapt your goals if needed. Something else might become a priority, and that’s OK.
  • Time-bound: When exactly do you want to start working on this goal? Is this a short-term or long-term goal? Is it a series of smaller goals that build to a bigger thing? If they’ll take longer, are you prepared to keep working on your goals and wait a while for success? Set a deadline and keep yourself accountable.

6 examples of health goals

Setting your SMART health goals for the first time can get overwhelming, so here are six examples to help you out:

  1. Eating a more nutritious, well-balanced diet: “Starting tomorrow, I will eat vegetables at every meal. In a month, I’ll add more nutrition to my diet, but this is a great place to start.”
  2. Sleeping better at night: “I will sleep 8 hours every night for 1 month straight. I will track it in an app so that I can stay accountable.” 
  3. Acknowledging your emotions rather than ignoring them: “For the next week, I will pause every time I feel a strong emotion and write in my journal.” 
  4. Setting boundaries: “I will not work over the weekend this month. I will set this expectation with my boss at our next meeting, and track my time so that I can ensure I complete all my work during the week.” 
  5. Living in the present: “I will pause at least once a day to meditate for 15 minutes. I will try to do this for 21 days straight.”
  6. Creating time for just yourself: “I will dedicate 3 hours each week to myself for the next month. I will schedule this time on my calendar and prioritize it over other things that come up.”

6 tips to succeed at your SMART health goals

At the end of the day, we all want to reach our goals and be successful. However, there may be times when we struggle to stay on course, doubt ourselves, or become confused.

We might struggle to resist temptations or feel defeated. The good news is with a little intention, you can move past these challenges and hit your goals. 

Here are six tips to help you achieve your SMART health goals:

1. Network however you can

Networking is important for our professional lives, but we can also network for personal reasons. Meeting like-minded people who have similar personal goals is inspiring. This could be as simple as joining a running group, for example.

If your goal is to run a 5K this year, new friends from this group can help you stay motivated. Whatever your goal is, you can also find online forums or attend events where you can meet people with similar interests.

2. Have a growth mindset

A growth mindset keeps you focused on trying new things and learning new skills. Instead of feeling stuck where you’re at, this mindset will drive you to get out of your comfort zone.

Having the proper mindset is critical because you might lose some of your drives to achieve your goals without it. This is especially true for long-term goals that require patience.

3. Keep your motivation high

As you work towards your SMART health goals, you’ll need to keep your motivation levels high. Studies show that our choices are dictated by our motivation, so choose wisely. Finding ways to keep yourself motivated will inspire you and encourage self-discipline, even on days when you feel like giving up.

4. Hold yourself accountable

Sometimes we let ourselves off easy when we stray from our plans. But too much of that will keep us from ever achieving our goals. Holding yourself accountable keeps you focused and reminds you of what’s at stake. 

Record your progress through practices like journaling so that you can stay aware of your behavior. This will keep you motivated and show you when you need a break or to push yourself further.

Finding an accountability partner — someone to check in to make sure you’re making progress — is also a great way to stay on track.

5. Lean on support from others

Your goals might be personal, but that doesn’t mean you have to go through the journey alone. Talk with your trusted friends and family about your struggles and accomplishments.

Take moments to express yourself and be open to hearing what advice or support they might offer.


6. Accept failure, but learn to adapt

Mistakes and setbacks are bound to happen. They’re part of life. This is where self-compassion comes in. Learn to give yourself grace, accept your humanness, and move forward rather than beating yourself up for small failures.

Your journey forward might change. Be flexible and prepared to alter your plans. Life changes and that means your goals will, too.

Perhaps you find that your action plan isn’t working for you. Or, maybe you found a new life purpose and are switching careers to better pursue it. To succeed in the long term, you need to learn to adapt. Your personal goals should be ones that matter — to you.

6 extra tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Whatever your SMART health goals are, what really matters is that you’re working toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle.

Here are six extra tips to help you maintain that lifestyle for years to come:

  1. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  2. Understand when it’s time to rest your body and mind
  3. Keep a realistic but positive attitude through the highs and lows
  4. Make moves that’ll benefit your health, not ones to please others
  5. Move your body at least once a day
  6. Be kind to yourself and practice self-compassion


Moving forward with your goal setting

Your SMART health goals are there to make you feel better about yourself and improve your health. Whatever your goals are, they’ll enrich your life with healthy habits. 

Without goal setting, we’d all be lost. We wouldn’t know our true potential or be able to learn new skills. Never forget how important your goals are. With SMART goal setting and dedicated action, you’ll run past every finish line you set your mind to.

If you need some help getting started with your SMART goals, consider trying BetterUp. We can help you create an action plan that helps you reach your goals while feeling good in the process.

Enhance your health and wellness

Create a plan for a healthier life with personalized guidance from our wellness coaches.

Enhance your health and wellness

Create a plan for a healthier life with personalized guidance from our wellness coaches.

Published May 26, 2022

Maggie Wooll, MBA

Maggie Wooll is a researcher, author, and speaker focused on the evolving future of work. Formerly the lead researcher at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Princeton University and an MBA from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Maggie is passionate about creating better work and greater opportunities for all.

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