How to Set Healthy Goals

Wow! It’s June already?! Remember those New Year’s Resolutions? Yea, me neither. What makes reaching your goals so tough? (Besides pizza!)

We’ve all made resolutions we think will stick, but what really makes a successful goal? 45% of Americans set a resolution, but only 8% achieve their goals by the end of the year. We’re thinking year-round about how goals work for people in our community. The Smart Coach team is dedicated to creating an experience that helps you achieve your health aspirations. How do we ultimately help the UP® community achieve their healthy goals in an intelligent way? Research and experimentation are at the core of how we approach goal-setting for the UP® community.

Take a “Get fit and healthy” goal

. . .and apply goal theory to make it better

We’re using Goal-Setting Theory to help inform how we build our experiences. Goal-Setting Theory focuses on the relationship between setting goals and performance. A well-structured goal can motivate you to perform better, while a poorly structured goal can leave you feeling frustrated and demoralized. Take one of the top five goals people set:

Get fit and healthy” becomes

Get fit by eating better

“Goals should be specific”: Getting “fit and healthy,” while lofty, has no real meaning. What makes you feel fit and healthy? Is it eating better? Is it losing 10 pounds? Is it playing with your kids and not feeling winded?  Is it running 6 miles? Try something that is action-oriented so you can have a direction to grow in.

Get fit by eating better” becomes

“Get fit by avoiding brunch”

“Goals need to hold you accountable”: Don’t let yourself be your worst enemy. Goals that can’t be measured ultimately allow you to cheat yourself out of success. “Eating better” could mean that you went from ordering that double cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake to a double cheeseburger, fries and a soda. While potentially lower in calories, this meal is not going to make major changes in your overall health.

“Get fit by avoiding brunch” becomes

“Get fit by replacing brunch bagels with English muffins”

“Goals should be difficult but achievable” Try as you might, you probably aren’t going to be able to get out of every brunch invite, nor do you want to! Making a goal achievable can be as simple as making small adjustments at a time. Set a target that will be tough, but that you’ll be able to follow through on. Don’t sandbag it, but make sure it’s something you can accomplish!

Once you have a goal that is specificmeasurable and attainable, you improve your chances for success.

How do we know this works? We take this advice to heart. Look at steps: When you join UP®, we recommend new members set their goal to 10,000 steps—which is specific and holds you accountable, but depending on who you are, might not be as attainable. To really figure out what is achievable for the UP® community, we’re running a series of experiments to determine what impact achievability has on our members. People who are lower steppers (whether it be because of occupation, health issues or something else) step 14% more than members who are prompted to reset their goal to something unachievable for them.

We aren’t done yet. There are more experiments to be done, and even more ways to approach the right goal for UP® community members. We are committed to understanding your personal capabilities and making recommendations that fit your lifestyle. The more we learn, the more you benefit.

  1. Locke and Latham (link)
  2. Norcross JC1, Mrykalo MSBlagys MD. Auld lang syne: success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. (2002). J Clin Psychol. Apr;58(4):397-405.(2014). (link)

Technical Footnote: In our experiment, we hypothesized that for people who consistently do not reach their 10,000 step goal, an attainable goal will encourage you to step more than an unattainable goal, or no goal at all. In this experiment, we took people who average less than 5,000 daily steps, and put them in three groups. The first group (“Control”) was presented with an insight that casually mentions you haven’t hit your goal lately. The second group (“Attainable”) was presented with a recommended goal of 20% higher than their personal non zero 31-day step average. The third group (“Unattainable”) was presented with a recommended goal of 60% higher than their their personal non zero 31-day step average. People received these insights on the weekend, and the “Attainable” goal users stepped 14%  more than users who were in the “Control” or the “Unattainable” treatment. This was significant with a p-value of 0.03, which is statistically significant at 95%.


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