I love it when the realm of concepts learned at work and during study merges into everyday life. However, this did not naturally come to me. I needed others to help me blur that divider and see that it is possible and even important to so. Many of us are efficient when it comes to work and generally meeting our educational needs but our personal life and thus aims seem to suffer from a case of chaositis.
One of my Aha! moments was when I was introduced to using SMART objective for the memorisation of the Quran, but we’ll leave that to another article, in-sha’allah. Here I want to tackle a topic “dear” to many of us women; weight loss. Firstly, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound.
Let me use the example of losing weight to fit into that gorgeous wedding dress. If I decide that I need to get into a size z dress and would need to lose around x kilograms to get there then I would have set a specific target. Another way would be deciding how much I need to lose in centimetres; around the tummy, upper arms and thighs, for example. Most of the time, specific targets lend themselves to being measurable; kilos, centimetres, how many minutes I can jog before I’m out of breathe etc. As well as knowing what I’ll be checking to keep an eye on my target by setting these specific goals I can get a clearer picture of what I need to do e.g. what kind of exercises I should be doing.
‘Achievable’ does not automatically mean ‘easy’. To achieve something is to succeed in finishing something or reaching an aim, especially after a lot of work or effort. Going back to ‘fitting into that wedding dress’ scenario: is losing those x kilograms or y centimeters achievable? There are a couple of points here that I should consider. The first is impact; the health impact of losing weight and the method of losing this weight in terms of diet restrictions, supplements and type of physical activity I am intending to do. Generally a maximum rate of weight loss of around 0.5kg-1kg (1lb – 2lb) is considered sensible. Any more can have damaging effects. Secondly, the sustainability of what I am planning to do. Can I afford to sustain this routine by way of expenses, time and effort? The best ways are those that can be incorporated into everyday life and are enjoyable. Yes, we all have our ‘off’ days but we should look at overall ability to stick to the plan, see what is actually going well and not keep beating ourselves up over the slips.
When making a plan to achieve the aim of losing weight relevancy is important. It’s like a filter that helps us decide on doing something or not. That is if I am faced with a couple of options I’ll have to look at them and decide which one is more fitting for my purpose. Now, that does not mean choosing what will get me to lose the most weight. When deciding on what to do to increase my physical activity it may be better for me to get a treadmill at home instead of joining a gym for example because the gym is so far it’ll be too hard to go there regularly. Or, joining an exercise class maybe better for me because I like doing things with other people and not on my own. Looking at relevancy can help with getting rid of distractions. Watching a sports programme sitting on the sofa can’t really count as part of the plan!
A SMART aim should be time bound. Set a date to work towards to achieve the specific aim which I’ll know I’ve achieved by checking the measurables e.g. kilograms/centimetres lost, can I fit into that dress size etc. Having a deadline can push us to keep working on the task at hand, it gives a sense of urgency and importance. For some reason things which don’t have a set date seem to drift down our priority list even though they are important. Being of a healthy weight is important but this tends to be brought up the priority list when there’s an important occasion or an immediate health concern we need to address. Having one set deadline does have its shortcomings though. For a multitude of causes we may not put in the effort required until the last minute before the deadline. This ends up being too little too late and we end up with crash diets and intensive 7 day weeks in the gym. We get too comfortable with that one big deadline in the distance and can get distracted. Another issue is that we may not achieve our target by the time that date comes by. I can imagine the disappointment and upset. A good way of overcoming these shortcomings is to set mini targets or checking posts. So if I give myself x months to lose y kilograms I also set the checking posts of every z weeks. I get on with my plan and when I reach z week 1 I check my measurables, what went well so I can maintain them and what didn’t go so well and find reasons to avoid/reduce for next time. The advantage of having the checking posts is to keep the aim ‘alive’ and thus the motivation to achieve it. Also, it is a pragmatic approach. Noting what works and doesn’t helps in tweaking the plan and making appropriate changes. That is important as I may underestimate/overestimate myself when set my initial plan. And it gives the flexibility of moving the main deadline for a good reason and not excuses. Call it the process of ‘tailoring the plan so it becomes a snug fitting glove’.
1. Do your homework
RESEARCH – diets, exercise routines and seek advice from the professionals e.g. your doctor, a fitness trainer, a dietician etc.
2. Put Pen to Paper
PLAN – Write down your SMART plan of How/When/Where and Why.
JOURNAL – keeping a journal will help in noticing what worked really well or not.
3. Go for it
If is important and you’ve done the research then why wait? Say bismillah (in the name of Allah) and go for it