The SMART way to healthy habits

SMART goals are used to show progress on the job, but did you know they can be equally beneficial in your personal life? Setting specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-limited objectives can help individuals determine where they are headed and how to get there, which is why they are a useful tool in breaking bad habits and creating healthier outcomes that can lead to better mental and emotional health.

Bad habits take many forms. Perhaps you struggle to get enough exercise or sleep, or maybe you have a hard time following a budget. Whatever you are facing, defining realistic goals and committing to them will support you in forming positive habits. Having a clear and manageable plan can often relieve some of the pressures that cause stress and other disruptions to our mental well-being.

Setting a SMART goal to break a bad habit may sound something like this: 

  • Every day this week, I will put my phone away 10 minutes before bed. 
  • Starting now, I will park my car farther away from my home and office to walk an additional five minutes a day. 
  • Tonight, I will spend an hour examining my budget to determine my strengths and growth areas. 

Remember to write down all of your goals, actions, measurements and time frames, and regularly read over them to assess your progress. Whenever you are setting a new goal, consider your past experiences to identify the objectives or practices that are most likely to motivate you. If a past goal did not work, what can you change this time to stay on track? 

Changing bad habits takes time and effort, so do not be discouraged if you fall behind your goals at times. The following tips will help you make sustainable adjustments and stick to them even when life gets busy: 

  • When a SMART goal begins to feel easy or natural, create a new one or edit your original objective to challenge yourself. 
  • Use preexisting healthy habits to make new goals easier to follow. For example, take advantage of your lunch break by going on a walk. 
  • Predict obstacles. Examine the roadblocks you have faced in the past and consider how you will overcome them when they appear this time. You will never have all the answers, but you can still be prepared. 
  • Set goals that empower you. If your goals are too ambitious, you are far more likely to get discouraged and quit. Your short- and long-term objectives must be achievable—not by those around you, but by you. 
  • When working toward a long-term goal, define smaller milestones so you can get started right away. The shortest step is still progress.

Rome was not built in a day, and neither are healthy habits. Take time to define your SMART goals and get started now. You will be amazed to see how much progress you can make when your actions are specific, measurable, and realistic. 

If you are feeling stuck or overwhelmed, Dallas ISD’s confidential, secure Employee Assistance Program by LifeWorks offers 24/7 counseling as well as CareNow training programs that focus on topics like substance abuse, work-life balance and achieving financial well-being. All Dallas ISD employees can access the EAP, no contribution required. 

Learn more by reaching out to LifeWorks at (972) 925-4000, or visit and click on Benefits Resources to access online EAP information.

*Source: LifeWorks 

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