Using the 5 W’s for setting S.M.A.R.T.R goals
Goal setting is not easy, it takes some deep thought and questions to know what you want and why you want it. Taking the time and asking the right kind of questions helps make goals S.M.A.R.T.R. But what are the right kind of questions?
This is where the five W’s come in for setting S.M.A.R.T.R goals.
Using the five W’s can help simplify things as you go through your goal-setting process, by giving you a framework of where to start your questions.
The five W’s are What, When, Where, Why, and How.
So where do you start? You start with the end in mind.
When I first sit down with someone to talk about their goals, one of the first questions I’ll ask is, “What do you want to accomplish?” This gets them to start thinking. This is usually when they reply with one of a few general goals. “I want to lose weight.” “I want to look better.” “I want to get healthy.” “I want to get strong.” “I want to build muscle.” Good goals but they are too general.
We need to get more specific.
To do that, I will then follow-up with a “how much” question. Like “How much weight would you like to lose?” This will give you part of the measurable aspect of S.M.A.R.T.R goals along with getting down to a specific goal and not a general one.
To help them visualize it in their mind, I may follow-up with “Where do you see yourself in a year having lost (x amount)?” Followed by “What are you doing differently, that you aren’t doing now?” And “How does it feel when you are there?” These questions start tying their goal to emotions and help them be more honest for the next set of questions.
Now is when we dig deeper into their goal and why they want to achieve it. Tying it to emotions even more. So, I then may ask them “Why do you want to lose (x amount of) pounds?” I will ask “Why” about three to five times to help them dig down to why they truly want to achieve said goal.
This is the hardest part for most and usually takes time and practice to get down to the true reason of why you want to accomplish your goal. Don’t rush this part. This can get quite emotional, but doing so will help you find the motivation and determination to keep going forward when things get tough.
The next question that also helps make the goal measurable and establishes a timeline is “When do you want to accomplish it by?”
This also helps us see if the goal is attainable and realistic within that timeframe, or if we need to adjust the goal or timeline to make it more realistic. We often underestimate our timeframe and overestimate what we can do within that time. This can lead to frustration and feelings of failure.
We need to avoid that trap to find success though. Small successes over time build up to big changes. By looking at your goal and adjusting it to be more achievable, getting small victories along the way, can help build momentum and the motivation to keep going.
With a realistic timeline set and your specific and measurable goal written down, we are well on our way to building a strong S.M.A.R.T.R goal.
Now let us look at making it actionable by making a plan to achieve it. With a new client, I start by asking, “How are you planning on (losing x number of pounds)?” They may tell me they are going on a certain diet, or tracking their calories, or exercising more, but they usually don’t have a specific plan to follow. This is where I help them get more specific for their needs and goal. This could be helping them find out how many calories they need for their goal and how to adjust it as their weight changes or writing a training program they can follow consistently. The important factor here is that we come up with the plan together and have agreed on what they are ready, able and willing to do.
The plan also needs to be measurable in certain aspects, aspects that will change depending on goals and what you feel is important, but this allows you to track and adjust things as needed. This will make sure you are staying results-orientated. You can track things like weight lost, picture progress, calories and macros, weight lifted for an exercise, whatever you feel is important to achieving your goal. Doing so allows you and/or your coach to see trends over time and make any necessary adjustments to keep seeing progress and achieve the goal within the set timeframe.
Having set a S.M.A.R.T.R goal now, I want to ask four questions about it that will make you think more deeply about it.
“What are the costs of achieving this goal?” Think of what you may have to give up or change to achieve your goal.
“What are the benefits of achieving this goal?” What positive things will be because of achieving your goal? And what is better/different?
“What are the costs of not achieving it?” What would happen if nothing changes? Any consequences? How would you feel?
“What are the benefits of not achieving it?” Think of any positives that come from not achieving your goal. What is good about staying where you are?
Now weigh the costs versus benefits of each. Do the benefits outweigh the costs of achieving it or not achieving it? We may need to adjust the goal until they are in favour of achieving it, but if they do, you have now cemented your determination in achieving your goal and can use this as motivation when things feel tough.
I hope this helps you set and achieve S.M.A.R.T.R or Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timebound, Results-orientated goals.
But before I go, I will end with one last question, “Where are you going to find support?” Support is a big piece of the success puzzle. Maybe you have a good friend or family member, your spouse, a teammate, or a coach/trainer that can help support you. They are there for things like hold you accountable and motivate you when the going gets tough, and keep you on track, supporting you in the pursuit of your goal. Having support can make it more fun and easier to achieve your goal as well.
So, get your S.M.A.R.T.R goal and plan written down on paper, build your support network, and get to work on the journey to success.