Provision #501: S.M.A.R.T. CHOICES

Laser Provision

For goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties to be successful, they not only need to be S.M.A.R.T. they also need to be chosen. No one can successfully implement someone else’s goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties • regardless of how Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, andTimely they may be • with full satisfaction. Only through intrinsic motivation can we build our strengths into the life of our dreams. Sound attractive? This Provision offers a simple, three-step process for making it so.

LifeTrek Provision

Those of you who read along from week to week know that the current series on Changing for Good is set in the context of our Optimal Wellness Prototype Click. Before making the turn from the Input side of the equation (what we put into our bodies) to the Output side of the equation (what we do with our bodies), I decided to proffer some coaching tips on the change process itself.

How does anyone successfully initiate and maintain one or more changes in life and work? For the past five weeks, I have encouraged you to adopt goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties that areSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Those are the ones that can spell the difference between success and failure. Instead of general, vague, unrealistic, irrelevant, and wishful pipedreams, S.M.A.R.T. goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties produce mastery experiences that lead directly to our best selves.

What lies behind each of these areas • goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties — are choices. We are neither the victims of circumstance nor the pawns of manipulation; we are rather the products of our conscious and unconscious choices. It’s the balance of our intentions and attentions that determines whether or not we play at the top of our game. When those choices are S.M.A.R.T., they make life easier. When those choices are D.U.M.B. • Dysfunctional, Uninspiring, Misfit, andBurdensome • they make life harder.

The purpose of coaching is to assist people to make S.M.A.R.T. choices. If you would like to work on that, please don’t hesitate to let us know Click. Even without a coach, however, you can easily make S.M.A.R.T. choices by looking at your goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. These are the areas that set the context, terms, and likelihood for success.

I’ve tried to illustrate how that works over the course of this series in reference to healthy eating and optimal wellness. It’s not enough to say, “I want to lose weight.” What does that mean? What will we do differently? What’s our first step? And how will we keep the weight off once we lose it? “I want to lose weight” is an example of a D.U.M.B. choice. It’s not S.M.A.R.T. enough to get us where we want to go.

“I want to start each day with a Healthy Fruit Chewy Click” is a S.M.A.R.T. choice. We know the who, what, when, where, why, and how of that choice. It supports optimal wellness not as a weight-loss strategy but as a lifestyle. It’s something we can do yesterday, today, and tomorrow for the rest of time. It organizes our goals, habits, stuff, systems, and ties. It leads us, for example, to purchase a blender, to stock up on certain foods, to structure our time, and to make requests of other household members.

That’s the way all S.M.A.R.T. choices work: they become organizing principles for life itself. They are so Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely that they bolster our intrinsic motivation for change. In the presence of a S.M.A.R.T. choice, we are pulled forward as though by an invisible hand or a target that beckons. In the presence of a D.U.M.B. choice, however, we have no urge to move forward apart from extrinsic systems of punishments and rewards. Once those systems decline or disappear, we lose interest and slide back.

We can imbue virtually any activity with the intrinsic motivation that comes from S.M.A.R.T. choices. As many of you read this, for example, I will be running the Colonial Half Marathon in my hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s an annual event that I make a point of running whenever possible. I don’t run this or any other race to set records. I put races on my calendar as S.M.A.R.T. choices, in order to promote my training throughout the year. Those dates on the calendar provide a tug to keep me going.

I’m not suggesting that your choices need to be the same as my choices. Everyone on the planet doesn’t need to eat the same thing for breakfast or run long-distance races! I am, however, suggesting that everyone on the planet needs to make S.M.A.R.T. choices that are self-reinforcing for optimal wellness.

How do we do that? First, we choose to make wellness one of our core values. Since wellness is a universal human need, I don’t expect much of an argument when it comes to that choice. Without health and wellness, everything else suffers. With health and wellness, everything else prospers. Even though wellness is a universal need, it helps to make wellness a conscious part of our personal value system.

Second, we choose S.M.A.R.T. goals that support and stem from our value of wellness. To come up with these goals, I like to broaden and build on people’s strengths. Most people can remember a time when they were at their best, a time when they felt fully alive, a time when life was good. Such times are the seeds for S.M.A.R.T. goals in the here and now. We may not be able to do what we once did, but we can identify Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely goals that will make life more wonderful.

Which leads to the third, all-important choice: we choose to implement S.M.A.R.T. strategies that support and stem from our goals. Unfortunately, many people fail to make this all-important choice. They may have the values and the goals, but without the strategies • without the S.M.A.R.T. habits, stuff, systems, and ties • they will fail to turn their goals into gains.

One reason this happens is that people fail to see a connection between their values, goals, and strategies. On a certain level, people may discount or doubt their ability to make a difference. Au contraire! There may be no guarantees when it comes to wellness, but there are ways to increase the probabilities. There’s a reason health departments require restaurant employees to wash their hands before returning to work! It’s all about those probabilities.

That’s why the process of Changing for Good so often begins with consciousness raising. The more we know about the probabilities, the more we trust the connection between our values, goals, and strategies, the more likely we are to take action. If we don’t know, for example, that hydrogenated vegetable oils lower our probabilities for health and wellness, then we will probably muster neither the powers of intention nor attention to avoid them. The same holds true for high fructose corn syrup. We mindlessly go on living, with no awareness of the impending catastrophe.

Since you are reading these words, my guess is that your consciousness is already raised around the many S.M.A.R.T. habits, stuff, systems, and ties that increase the probabilities for health and wellness. To mention a few of the ones we have covered recently, written in S.M.A.R.T. terms:

  • Get at least six hours of sleep a night, nodding off and waking up at about the same time every day.
  • Take at least 10,000 steps every day, wearing a pedometer if it helps you do so.
  • Avoid eating milled grain, dairy, and processed food products.
  • Drink at least two liters of filtered water per day, removing rubber bands on water bottles if that helps you to keep track.
  • Raise and lower your heart rate, at least 60 minutes per day, through exercise and relaxation.
  • Consciously acknowledge, say, or write down at least three things for which you are grateful each and every day.

Those are the kinds of strategies that rev up anyone’s goals for health and wellness. They are also the kinds of strategies that can lead to S.M.A.R.T. project planning. I will never forget, for example, the client who totally rearranged his house in order to promote six hours of sleep a night. The television and computer went out of the bedroom and he programmed two alarms into his PDA, alerting him to 60-minute and then 30-minute intervals before his chosen bed time.

When that didn’t work, he gave his television away, because it was proving to be too much of a distraction! After several months, with his new sleep pattern established, he felt ready to bring television back into his life. Through reflection and conversation, however, he decided to let it be. His life was better, he concluded, without any television at home.

Those are the levels of transformation that come upon us as we make S.M.A.R.T. choices. By choosing our values, goals, and strategies, we end up with the intrinsic motivation for change. And once that motivation is in place, there’s no telling the races that we will run.

Coaching Inquiries: What are the values, goals, and strategies that govern your life? Are theySpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely? What actions have they inspired? Who could you talk with to sharpen them up? How can your choices be more fully your own? 

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form on the Web for a complimentary coaching session.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


I have read LifeTrek Provisions for some time now and always find your insights thought-provoking and inspiring. Listening to your feelings about Appreciative Inquiry as a starting place for the coaching relationship was a breath of fresh air. It is so much easier for me to come from the positive rather than to dissect and focus on the negative.


Here’s what I am taking away from the Optimal Wellness Prototype Click and my own experience with prediabetes:

  • It’s the food • stupid! Exercise has a lot of benefits in its own right, but when it comes to weight loss I need to get serious about limiting the caloric intake.
  • A whole new lifestyle awaits me. This isn’t just something to get through, until I reach my goal. To maintain my desired weight and remain free of diabetes I am buying into a new pattern of eating and activity, a pattern for a lifetime.
  • Glycemic load matters. It’s probably impossible to eat too much in the way of dark green/orange vegetables.
  • Watch the nuts.
  • Happy animals make better food!
  • My goals are definitely do-able!

(Ed. Note: Thanks for the great summary! That’s what makes S.M.A.R.T. goals so smart: they are definitely do-able!)