How to set a health goal and achieve it

14th November, 2019 • 4 min read

It’s common to start the year intending to eat better, do more exercise or go to bed at a sensible hour. But for most of us, those intentions are short-lived and we return to our old ways within a few days or weeks.

In this article

Take a moment to reflect on the past 2 to 3 years. Have you made the same healthy resolution year after year? If so, read on to learn how to break free from this cycle.

What is a goal?

A goal is something you want to achieve or do. It can be anything, but research suggests there are 5 things you should do when setting a goal to maximise your chances of achieving it.

Try a SMART approach

To successfully set a goal and achieve it, you must first decide what you want to accomplish. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight”, try to rephrase your goal so it’s both specific and measurable. For example, “I want to lose 3kg by 31 December”.

This strategy is taken from the SMART approach to goal setting. It’s a strategy that’s often favoured by businesses and organisations that wish to improve their performance. A SMART goal is one that is:

  • S - specific
  • M - measurable
  • A - achievable
  • R - realistic
  • T - time-sensitive

As SMART goals suggest, to maximise success make sure you know:

  • what change to your health and wellbeing you want to achieve
  • when it’s achieved (make it measurable)
  • that you can realistically achieve it
  • when you want to achieve it by

Make it something you really want

When the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reviewed 58 large studies on goal setting, it found that success is more likely when a person is committed to the goal. The review looked at goal setting in the workplace, but the findings still provide clues about how to set goals in other areas of your life. It suggests that if you want to see a goal through to the end, you should choose something you are committed to - something that feels important or appeals to you.

Monitor your progress

The CIPD goal setting review also found that monitoring your progress may help to keep you on track. So it may be worth recording and reflecting on your progress regularly. Why not use our trackers to monitor your progress each day? You can use these trackers to monitor how you sleep, your energy levels, your mood and other measures of health change as you move closer to your goal.

Write it down

It’s been said that writing down a goal can help you follow through. But is there any evidence to support this theory? In 2015, a researcher at the Dominican University of California investigated how to best achieve goals in the workplace.

The researcher asked 267 participants to set a work-related goal. Some wrote down the goal, while others didn’t. After 4 weeks, a higher percentage of people who wrote down their goals achieved them. It’s not conclusive evidence, but it suggests that writing down your health goal may help increase your chances of success.

Stay accountable

The results of the Dominican University of California study reveal something else about the secret to achieving your goals: find someone to be accountable to. In the study, the highest success rate was among participants who didn’t just write down their goals but also shared the goal with a friend and sent the friend weekly progress reports.

So if you’re determined to achieve a health goal once and for all, ask someone you trust to keep you accountable by giving you feedback and support.

Focus on creating a new habit instead of giving up a habit

According to research published in the British Journal of General Practice, when striving to become healthier, you’re more likely to succeed if you focus on achieving a new healthy habit instead of giving up an existing habit. This, say the authors of the research, is because a person can only form a habit for doing something, not for not doing something. With this in mind, you’ll need to reframe your approach to getting healthy if you want to succeed. For example, instead of vowing to give up junk food, focus on creating a habit of eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily.

Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.