Do you want to improve your wellbeing, but don’t know where to start?
There is so much information out there these days on how to improve our wellbeing, it can be confusing knowing what to do and where to start. Do I drink green smoothies, do I mediate or do I need to exercise more to feel better? These are all great ways to feel better, but are they what you need to do? To answer this question, we need to take a step back. Rather than starting with behaviours to change, it’s important to know what wellbeing means to you. Think about that for a moment. If your wellbeing was the way you wanted it to be, what would your life look like, how would you feel, what would you be doing more or less of? Picture this in your mind. Then ask yourself, why is this important to me, what else would change in my life, what would the benefit of that be, why does that matter to me?
Once you can answer these questions, you can then think about what you need to do to get there, the specific actions to work towards what you want. The key to being happier and healthier is behaviour-based goals. Goals give us a sense of purpose and direction. They help keep us focused on what needs to be done and they also provide us with a way to measure our level of success. By setting goals, we create a plan for how to obtain what we want. Many times when we set goals, we focus on the negative, i.e. what we don’t want rather than what we do want, however behaviour-based goals focus more on the behaviours we want to strengthen rather than the negative actions we want to remove. In strengthening the positive behaviours, we change the way we act and react in many situations – not just situations surrounding our goal. The ripple effect of creating more positive behaviours in our lives is wide- reaching, affecting far more than just what we may have had in mind when creating the goal.
Behaviour-based goals are designed to get you to a place that is not the place you are currently inhabiting. Behaviour-based goal setting is about doing the things that need to be done, on a daily basis, that keep you moving towards the end points that you have chosen. They are real and actionable steps that, if implemented on a daily basis, will move you in the direction that you want to go. Behaviour-based goals are not about dreaming and wishing, they are about the work that needs to be done to get you where you want to be. A helpful way to view these goals is to see them as a series of small steps.
One of the ways to ensure that you’re setting behaviour-based goals is by using the SMART system. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Each of these elements is an integral part of any behaviour based goal. Let’s take a look at an example to get a better understanding of how this works. If you find yourself setting goals and then never reaching them, then SMART goals are for you?
So let’s get into what SMART really means!
S – Specific
While behaviour-based goals can be harder to quantify than outcome-based goals, by focusing on the specific behaviours that need development or strengthening, we can see that clearly defining these behaviours is possible. For instance, “I will close or turn off all electronic notifications while working on this project”, is basically stating that the habit of becoming distracted will be curbed in order to achieve more productivity.
M – Measurable
To be effective, the road towards achieving a goal must be able to be measured. In the example in the above paragraph, the measure would be how much more of the project one is able to accomplish by turning off all electronic notifications.
A – Attainable
You want your behaviour-based goal to be attainable, i.e. not so overwhelming that you start out feeling as if you can’t do it. That defeats the entire purpose of the exercise. Start off with smaller goals that you know you can achieve, such as positively changing one single habit, and focus on doing that consistently before attempting to change other habits. Build on these small successes and before you know it, you’ll be achieving your big goals, as well!
R – Realistic
Set yourself up for success right from the beginning by setting goals that are realistic to your personality and your lifestyle. Changing your behaviours to achieve a goal will never work if you aren’t realistic about who you are, what you’re capable of, and what you’re willing to do. Start with easy behaviour changes that are easy for you to accomplish, and fit your lifestyle and personality. Once you’ve mastered those, you can ramp up to changing behaviours that might be more challenging to you.
T – Time-based
Giving yourself a time limit on achieving a specific behaviour change can often spur more action toward that goal. But there’s a fine line between too little and too much time. Changing behaviour patterns often takes time, so make sure that you’ve accounted for this.
By utilising the SMART acronym when setting behaviour-based goals, you’ll find yourself much more likely to achieve them, and have measurable ways to check your progress!