Most of us hold visions of what a positive future could look like. It's human nature to dream. Health Coaches expertly tap into patients' visions for the future as the foundation of their patient-centered work. This week, I sought to do just that by asking a few people around the office two questions:
What would you like more of in your life? and How would you like to get there?
Here are a few responses I heard:
- Person #1: Wants to feel more impactful. They think it would help to volunteer somewhere.
- Person #2: Needs some calm. Their goal? Meditate regularly.
-Person #3: Wants to feel physically stronger. Finishing a half marathon could do the trick.
The people who responded to my inquiry are smart, committed, tenacious individuals. Plus, they seem to really want to make these goals happen. So, is it a sure-fire bet they will reach their visions with ease? Not quite. Being an awesome person with desire for an outcome doesn't spontaneously bring about behavior changes. These conditions certainly help. But to make big things happen, especially goals that may take months to achieve, we'll want to draw a roadmap that guides the way.
For health coaches, that roadmap needs to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely.) With the rise of technology in our lives, S.M.A.R.T. goals are more powerful than ever. Imagine yourself in the time before smart phones. Maybe you used one of these devices instead?
I digress. In the before time, do you recall the experience of using paper maps to guide the way? Paper maps did the job, but were limited by the size of the page and cumbersome to keep on hand in all cases we might need them.
Now consider the smart phone or GPS navigation systems of today. They are ready to adapt with changing conditions and can be referenced anywhere you are. New technology brought a shift in experience. Turns out, technology transforms our experience with health behavior change, too. If you haven't yet made the shift to using technology to guide goal setting with your patients, here's what to look for to ensure you're offering S.M.A.R.T. support to your patients:
When patients know exactly what behaviors to practice, their effort can focus meaningfully on learning new habits. What's more, defining specifics provides structure to ongoing coaching conversations. If the goal is too difficult or not challenging enough, patients will know exactly how to adjust. Making time for specifics tells patients how to quickly move toward mastery, and spend less time throwing spaghetti on the wall. (Spolier alert: not all of it sticks) Good technology will prompt coaches and patients to be as specific as possible. Here's specifically what to look for to guide S.M.A.R.T goals using technology:
- Space for brief, free-text description of the goal to be visualized on the patient's screen
- Programming that allows goals to appear on specific day(s) of the week and time(s) of the day
Make it Measurable
The ability to log and review data with ease gives patients real-time feedback on how their actions compare with what they set out to achieve. Without measurement, patients may generalize (example: one difficult day turns into a belief that the patient is doing a "bad" job overall) or overlook experiences with success that guide learning. When made visible, valuable insights from measurements highlight strategies that work. Here's how technology can bring about faster, more permanent change:
- Metrics that adapt and scale to the type of measure chosen (for example, if a patient is trying to lose weight, the point of data entry should be labeled for pounds and the tool should be able to meaningfully visualize progress on a scale specific to that metric)
- Ability to sync with AppleHealth and GoogleFit. Technologies that serve as data hubs allow patients to experience ease in logging data and seamlessly use other useful applications
Attainable goals stay within reach
Like my colleague set to run a half marathon will soon discover: all changes start with a single step. The best goal setting technology guides patients in taking "baby steps" toward their bigger-than-life goals. Seeing is believing and technology assists patients in celebrating along the way. Here's how attainability is expressed through technology:
- It makes goals visible in the daily data tracking and review process so patients have a sense of how far (or how close) they are to meeting their goals
- It easily adapts to make goals more challenging over time
Keep it Relevant
Patients may not commit to change until they've got a clear understanding of WIIFT: what's in it for them? Technology offers unique ways to remind patients of their purpose and reasons why change is important. Here are a few ways technology works to keep things relevant:
- Apps that allow patients to self-asssess current behaviors and evoke health areas of value keep WWIFT in view
- Communication tools, like messengers, highlight day-to-day experiences that expose "why" its important to keep practicing their changes
- Ability to log thoughts, feelings, conditions, and environments in which behaviors happen illuminates personal motivators and detterants
Don't miss a beat, arrive just in Time
Technology allows coaches to "be" with patients through their change process, even when they are not physically there. Anything technology can do to simulate the support of the coach in their absence allows timeliness to be achieved like never before. Here's how:
- Patients can strike while the iron is hot: they have equal power using technology to get started with their spontaneous S.M.A.R.T. goals
- Patients can get feedback on their progress through tailored visualizations
- Checking-In along the way just got easier: goal setting tools with messengers allow a higher, more targeted "dose" of coaching as communciation happens between visits
And just like that, good goal setting becomes great goal setting with the use of technology.
Now its your turn. A recent Twine release means anyone can download Twine and use it to start designing their S.M.A.R.T goals...including you! Visit your App Store (iPhone and iPad) or Google Play (Android Devices) and get started on your own path to greatness. I've already got my office mates started!