Do You Have SMART Goals?

One of the most common mistakes a lot of women make on the TTC journey has nothing to do with diet, lifestyle or timing of intercourse. It has to do how you set your goals. This might come as a shock — maybe you’re thinking, What?! Who doesn’t know how to set goals? Let me explain further.

One of the questions I often ask my patients when they start treatment with me is, “What’s your goal?” Most of the answers are, “I’m here because I want to get pregnant.” Or, “I want to be pregnant by October, or whatever date.” When I first started my acupuncture practice, I used to think that’s awesome, these are great goals to have, let’s do this. Throughout the years, I’ve discovered this type of goal-setting is the number-one source of frustration for most of my patients because it’s too vague, and the expectations are unrealistic. “I want to get pregnant” or “I want to be pregnant on a certain date” are not good goals because there is no way to put a time stamp on that. There are too many variables in the TTC process that are out of your control. For example, your hubby is out of town during week of ovulation, or there’s a blocked tube you didn’t know about.

Often, if the process for whatever reason takes longer than expected, you become frustrated, depressed and worried that something is wrong with you, so all these negative emotions bubble up.

Just as we saw the ultimate triumph of Olympians on TV this summer, we probably didn’t think too much about how long it took them to get there. To get to Rio, they had to set many specific, measurable, relevant goals that were achievable in a given amount of time to help them attain their dream goal of going, literally, for the gold. As they might attest, there is no such thing as instant, overnight success. The same philosophy applies to trying to conceive because the road can be long and windy. Setting small goals along the way is like having many stepping stones. It helps you to stay focused on the actions that are needed daily to boost your fertility and ultimately become pregnant.

There’s a well-known acronym for setting goals called SMART, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. In my online course Practically Fertile, I expand on the the five steps and added four more, but here we’re going to focus on just getting familiar with SMART. You can download a free worksheet on the Practically Fertile website to help you walk you through the steps in SMART goal-setting.

Let’s dive into the details. The first part of this is to set a specific goal, the more specific the better. For example, instead of “I want to be pregnant,” how about using an actionable goal that serves as a stepping stone like we talked about previously? Think, for example, “I want to exercise four times a week so I can lose 10 pounds.” That’s a specific goal with a specific result.

The M of SMART stands for measurable. This is how you’ll know you have achieved your goal. How will you know when you’ve lost 10 pounds? Well, perhaps your scale will tell you, or it could also mean fitting into an old pair of jeans, or more compliments.

The third letter A is for achievable. Now, you might get stuck here if you’re an overachiever like me, because you’re likely to reach for the sky and set your standards way too high. Just remember, a goal that’s not achievable is a waste of your energy and time. An example of an unattainable goal: “I want to exercise more and be pregnant by next week,” versus, “I’ll exercise four days a week to lose 10 pounds,” which is definitely doable for the average person.

Next, this goal must be relevant. What this means is that you must evaluate and do a gut check, and ask yourself if your goal is relevant for where you are at this moment of your life. For example, exercising to lose 10 pounds is relevant from a health perspective to boost fertility, but if you’re trying to pay off credit card debt, then it’s irrelevant. This step helps you stay focused. Trust me, you don’t want to put in all the effort only to find out it doesn’t fit with your overall vision.

Last but not least, your goal must be time-bound, which means it must be achievable within a given timeframe. Without this step, you’ll be like a leaf blowing around in the wind without a clear direction of where to land. This timeframe can be a week, two weeks, a month, or 90 days, 120 days, a year, whatever you feel is reasonable for the goal you’ve set for yourself. So if we continue with the example above, a reasonable time to lose 10 pounds could be 30-45 days.

Now let’s put everything together. By using the SMART goal-setting process, our goal sounds like this: I want to exercise four times a week to lose ten pounds within 45 days because it will help tremendously with balancing my hormones to boost fertility.

This is how you can use the SMART process during your TTC journey, where the ultimate desired outcome is a pregnancy. When you have a quiet moment alone today, sit down and identify the action steps that you feel are needed to help you get there. Make each action step a SMART goal and you’ll have your roadmap to success. Here is an example: The first goal is to cut out processed foods in 30 days and replace with healthy items in the pantry. The next goal could be to write in a gratitude journal about all the positive things happening in your life everyday for the next 90 days. So on and so forth. These goals are your goals, they are not anyone else’s goals, they are whatever you feel is right for you.

Keep in mind too, that goals can change. So you may find yourself adjusting them from time to time, and that’s OK.

To recap, a SMART goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Take action today to set your SMART goals and then hone in on exactly what you need to do to accomplish them. I know you can do it!


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