Realistic. The fourth term examines whether both your goals and the plans you created to achieve these goals are realistic. In other words “is my goal do-able?”, “is my action plan to achieve this goal do-able?”, and “do I have the skill set or knowledge base to follow through on my plan?”
To put this into perspective, consider the goal “I want to lose 5kgs in three months.” While this goal may sound realistic the plan you put into place to achieve it may involve unrealistic methods, like going cold turkey on certain foods or starving yourself. Hence although this goal is realistic the plan isn't.
Timing is another issue that needs to be considered. You may have a specific, measurable, achievable goal in place but you may also be too busy doing other things at the time. As a result trying to achieve this goal, at this point in time, would be unrealistic.
Realistic is the one term of the SMART method that I really agree with. How realistic something is to achieve will directly relate to the probability of you achieving it. However deciding on whether a goal is realistic can be tough. There is no one way or blanket approach to use when making this call. It is something that is very personal and can’t be quantified due to the huge variation of factors involved. Therefore when considering how realistic a goal may or may not be, make sure you think about the ‘you’ factor. That is, how realistic is it that ‘you’ can achieve this goal and not how realistic is it that this goal can be achieved.
Assuming you have established that exercising is of significant importance, how should you go about setting goals? The SMART goal approach, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (or Time Based) is one way of looking at the process of goal setting. Although I find some of these terms more useful than others, all five are relevant pieces of the goal-setting puzzle. Let’s take a closer look at each point and explore the strengths and limitations of each.
Specific. The first term states that goals should be straightforward and that they should emphasise exactly what you want to happen. The idea is that the more specific the goal, the more you can focus your efforts and be clear about what you intend to do.
For example, setting a goal to ‘do more exercise’ is vague and leaves a lot of room for interpretation and possible avoidance. A similar but far more specific goal might be to ‘go for a 30min walk straight after work every Wednesday and Friday.’ As you can see this second goal leaves little to chance as it clearly states the ‘what’ (a 30min walk) and the ‘when’ (straight after work on Wednesday and Friday).
Limitations with specificity arise when your situation or thinking changes, which is often. What happens if you were to injure your foot, or Wednesday night is no longer a viable time to walk, or for that matter you decide you don’t actually like walking? Do you then set another goal? What flow on affect does this then have on the remaining terms of the SMART acronym?