SMART Changes

Creating new habits for healthier living is a challenge, perhaps that is why the majority of Americans abandon “resolutions” before winter’s end. Often our desire for change isn’t supported with the confidence and skills to reach a long term vision.

Psychologists note more success in behavior change with a SMART goal process; Specific, Measurable, Attainable-Action based, Realistic goals, with a Time “deadline.” Simple, daily goals build confidence and progress.

In 2008, Angela Freese, age 36, was diagnosed with endometrial cancer. Two years later, her cancer developed into recurrent metastatic endometrial cancer, leading to the removal of the middle and lower lobe of her right lung. There is no cure for recurrent metastatic endometrial cancer.

“I currently have 2 nodules in the upper lobe of my left lung. Since we can’t keep removing lung tissue I receive a once a month anti estrogen injection. After I started training for the Million Dollar Marathon the lymph nodes decreased. I believe it was the increase in exercise that stopped the cancer from spreading.”

After Angela completed her first marathon, to raise money for cancer prevention and programs, she felt a greater urgency to improve her health. In November, she implemented a SMART goal process to improve fitness and nutrition, with the hope of losing weight, building endurance, and preventing her cancer from spreading.

“Setting goals that you can accomplish in 2-4 weeks seem the most attainable for me right now and build my confidence. If I look too far into the future I get overwhelmed and want to give up. Goals that are measurable also seem more attainable so that I can look at the progress and want to keep moving forward.”

Envision your ideal self one year from now. This is your long term goal.

Grab a pen. Now.

  • Describe the vision (Long Term Goal)
  • List 10 specific behaviors that support your long term goal. (SMART GOALS)
  • Pick one or two behaviors to implement for the next two weeks.
  • Post both SMART goals in a highly visible location.
  • Tell two people your goals, and ask for their support.
  • Predict possible obstacles and bumps in the road.
  • Brainstorm a counter attack to potential obstacles.
  • Reflect on the benefits of reaching your goals.
  • After two weeks, select another, small, measurable, realistic action, and recalibrate if necessary.

“Overcoming obstacles can be very hard. Most of my obstacles are created in my mind. Years of negative thinking doesn’t disappear overnight. Reaching out to friends seems to help. Just knowing I have their support and encouragement means a lot. Sometimes you just need to think out of the box to overcome obstacles. Stepping out of your comfort zone and just trying a different way to do things.”

Allow simple and realistic goals to build confidence. With persistence, passion and compassion, you will discover a journey above and beyond what you initially envisioned.

“Since my overall goal is improved health each of these smaller goals are steps in the journey. I find myself breathing easier, going up a flight of stairs are easier for me. Simple goals like eating breakfast everyday & packing my own lunch have helped me drop 10 pounds and I’m looking forward to dropping even more as we head into the new year!”

Want more guidance, accountability and encouragement in the goal setting process? Contact a trained wellness coach at your local YMCA and make an appointment, or consult with me, at

Additional Resources:

Mary Van Heukelom
Program Director

Mary Van Heukelom is a Certified Cancer Exercise Trainer who trains, educates and coaches cancer survivors to reduce the chance of relapse, through holistic personal wellness programs addressing all aspects of healthy living.

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