Keen on accomplishing great things this year to optimize your kidney health? Before you make the first step towards achieving your desired results, take time to set your goals first.
Goal setting must precede any undertaking, may it be switching to a kidney-friendly diet, starting an exercise routine to strengthen your body, or building healthy habits.
Shaping your goals helps you define your direction, and it fills you with the motivation you need to keep going in your journey.
Why is Goal Setting Necessary?
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt adrift? Despite having put in your best efforts, it still seemed like you’re not getting anywhere.
This is usually the result of not having well-defined goals. You’ll want to embark on a journey with a specific destination in mind and be crystal-clear with what you really want to achieve.
This is why it’s crucial to set goals, especially in managing your chronic kidney disease (CKD). When you know exactly what you want to achieve, you know where to focus your efforts. It also allows you to determine the roadblocks that might slow down your progress and avoid distractions that can keep you off the track.
By putting your goals on paper, you get to measure your progress and identify the steps you need to take to get from point A to B.
Make Your Goals SMART
The acronym SMART describes the key aspects to a goal. SMART stands for:
- Specific - Clear and straightforward
- Measurable - Can be quantified using specific criteria so you can track your progress
- Achievable - Goals should be within your reach
- Realistic - Goals should take into account your current situation and limitations
- Timely - Your goals should have a definite timeline (including a start date and target date of completion) attached to them
Now that you know what goals should look like, let’s have a closer look at how you can apply the SMART method in crafting your own goals and action plans.
Tips in Setting SMART Goals
What is it exactly that you desire to achieve? Zoom in on the outcomes that you want to happen. For example, the goal ‘To be healthy’ is too broad. And it will be difficult to determine how you will achieve it.
Try to be as precise as you can. With a specific goal, it becomes easier to come up with concrete actions that will lead you to your desired results.
If you nail down the specifics, ‘To be healthy’ can be narrowed down to:
- To be able to walk 5 km a day
- To completely eliminate salt from my diet
- To maintain a blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg or lower
Note that every person’s health goals will vary depending on your CKD stage and medical history. Here are additional reminders in setting specific goals:
- Create goals for yourself, not to impress your doctor or dietitian.
- Get a pen and paper and write down a general idea of what you want to achieve, then add more details.
- Refer to your latest lab results and check the recommendations made by your doctor or dietitian as a basis.
- Determine who is involved. For example, managing your weight is within your control but you’ll need the guidance of your dietitian in planning your meals.
- Identify the place where you’ll work on your goal. If you want to shed off some weight, you could exercise at home or outdoors.
- Indicate a realistic time frame or deadline for reaching your goal.
- List down the requirements and obstacles you’ll likely encounter along the way. If your goal is to switch to a plant-based diet, the obstacle might include your lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables or an aversion to plant-based protein sources.
- Reflect on the reasons behind your desire to set a particular goal. This will help you understand how a goal can fulfill your needs.
Noting and evaluating your performance each day makes it easier to monitor your progress and how much work you need to put in to reach your goals. For this purpose, you must decide on the metrics that you want to track every now and then.
These could be a combination of quantitative or descriptive metrics or criteria, including:
- Blood pressure levels
- Blood sugar levels
- Creatinine levels
- The number of dietitian-recommended foods or dishes you want to eat in a certain period
- Reps of an exercise
Seeing a significant headway towards reaching your goals will give you the push to keep going, especially on days when you feel less motivated to produce results.
- Indicate specific numbers in your goals so you’ll know right away if you’re on track or falling behind.
For example, if you want to lose weight, you might create a goal that says:
- Quantitative - Lose 40 pounds
- Descriptive - To be able to wear a dress I wore 3 years ago
Either way, you can easily measure your goal and see if you’ve met it.
- Ask yourself questions to narrow down your metrics.
- How many - ‘How many reps should I perform?’
- How much - ‘How much sugar do I want to cut back?’
- Track your progress. Keep a journal where you log the efforts you’ve made. You may also write down your feelings about your journey.
Do something that you’re willing and able to achieve. If you want to lose 40 pounds of weight but you set out to do this in 2 months, this may be too short to reach your goal. Set yourself up for success!
To make your goals more achievable, break them down to smaller goals and give yourself enough time to work through them. Losing 40 pounds may become more attainable for you if you lessen your intake of foods high in sugar and fat, eat more fiber, and exercise regularly.
Consider these tips in setting highly achievable goals:
- Assess your limitations and the challenges that may prevent you from pursuing a certain goal. Are you able to overcome them? Is it possible to address these limitations?
- Set a realistic amount of time you can devote for attaining your goals.
- Look at your objectives from a practical perspective. If you think you can’t achieve your goal due to your physical fitness, medical condition, or financial situation, it’s best to forego that goal and set a new one that’s more attainable for you in the present.
- Run your goals by your doctor and dietitian to get expert advice.
- Assess your commitment. Make sure your goal and level of commitment match up.
Does your goal enrich your life? Is it meaningful? Why do you want to set this goal in the first place? Will the achievement of this goal improve your health and quality of life? These are a few questions you need to ask yourself to ensure your goal is realistic.
One great example of a realistic goal is to slow down the progression of your CKD. Since it’s meaningful (and the ultimate goal of your treatment plan), creating a set of smaller goals that will help preserve your kidney function is important.
And if it’s important to you, you’re more likely to stick to doing them for the long haul.
If your goal is to workout at the gym 5 days a week, but the state health department prohibits seniors to go outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic, is it still realistic to follow through the plan?
Make sure to set goals that work for you and keep you motivated regardless of the circumstance.
Decide on a start and end date in achieving your goal. This will help you have a clear timetable to work towards it and plan out how you can achieve it. When you don’t put it on a timetable, chances are your goals will end up on the wayside.
Look at deadlines as a healthy form of pressure that motivates you to strive and work hard for the completion of your goals.
Examples of goals that have a time element:
- ‘I want to lose 6 pounds in 6 months time.’
- ‘I will only eat plant-based dishes during breakfast for 1 whole month.’
- ‘I will research on and stack my spice rack with herbs and spices in 2 weeks.’
Here are some tips to set time-framed goals:
- Create benchmark goals, or simply break long-term goals into tiny goals to make them more manageable. The key is to make compounding progress on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
For example, if your goal is to fully switch to a plant-based diet in 4 months, your benchmark goal could be to introduce one new plant-based dish to your meals every week. Then build from there. This way, you can make it a consistent habit until you reach the fourth month.
- Focus on the short term as much as the long term. Throughout the timetable you’ve established, make sure to do something that will contribute to your goal. Any amount of effort is okay.
If the goal is to go full-on plant-based in 4 months, one of your daily goals might be to substitute meat with plant protein in every dish that requires meat. You can also create a meal plan with the help of your dietitian.
Goal setting is a critical part in making changes to manage your chronic kidney disease. It helps you determine what’s important for your health, identify challenges, motivate yourself, and to really become intentional in improving your well-being.
Goal setting is a continuous process. Review and update your goals on a regular basis upon the advice of your doctor and dietitian. On the way to achieving your goals, remember to celebrate small wins and to rest when you need to.
And when you’ve already reached your goals, take time to bask in the satisfaction that comes with a job well done!
Setting SMART goals to support your kidney journey
How to Set SMART Goals
Blood Pressure Goals in Patients with CKDhttps://cjasn.asnjournals.org/content/14/1/161