Make Your Health Goals a Reality with These Tips
Have you ever set a New Year’s resolution in January only to find yourself back to your old habits by February? You’re not alone. In fact, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. The secret to achieving those resolutions may not be in your willpower or determination but instead in the goals themselves. We’ll help you figure out how to set better goals and how to achieve them.
Determining your goals
Step 1 | Ask yourself these questions
It’s not enough to set a goal; you also need to understand what you really want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Give yourself time and space to think these things through. You could even try writing it out to help clarify your thoughts for yourself. Ask yourself these questions and be as specific as possible in your answers:
- Why does this goal matter to you?
- What are your core values? How can you integrate them into this goal?
- What motivates you? Do you do best when something is fun, social or competitive? How can you fold that into the goal?
Let’s put this into practice with real-world examples. Let’s say you want to eat more vegetables this year. The reasons could be as diverse as having a healthier diet, getting more nutrients from food so you can take fewer vitamins or reducing your meat intake. Let’s say one of your core values is adventure. You can integrate this into your goal by trying unusual types of vegetables or recipes from around the world. Maybe you do best by making your goals fun and social. Try a virtual cooking class with a family member or friend.
Step 2 | Consider your mind, body and spirit
When you consider your whole self in your goals, you’re more likely to achieve those goals. Try to involve your mind, body and spirit in how you approach your goal. Going back to the vegetable example, you could learn more about a specific vegetable such as it’s history or interesting facts about it. With your body, perhaps you focus on your sensory experience of that vegetable. How does it smell? What does it feel like in your hand? What does it taste like? For the spirit, you might think about all the people who touched that vegetable before you—the farmer who planted it, the worker who picked it, the driver who brought it to the grocery store, the grocer who displayed it—and how you’re connected to so many strangers. When you’re able to enjoy the process, not just the end result, you’re more likely to have a richer experience which can help you stay on track.
Step 3 | Be realistic and specific
You’ll want to be honest with yourself about what is possible to achieve and how long it could take. Being specific also helps you stay on track with your goals. Eating more vegetables sounds good but it’s also vague. Give yourself a specific, measurable number. Maybe you start with three vegetables a day and work up to five. Setting a time frame is another tactic you can use. Maybe your first month you eat three vegetables a day, the second you up it to four and the third you increase to five. Making your goals specific and time-based helps you easily chart your progress from one day to the next and make adjustments if necessary.
Achieving your goals
Step 1 | Figure out your peak energy time
Goals are by definition challenging. Some goals can feel especially overwhelming even if you really want to achieve them. Figuring out when you have the most energy during the day can help you understand when to do those tough tasks. If you’re a morning person, you might spend that time focused on your goals. Let’s take our vegetable example. You could use this time to cut up veggies and put them in containers for easy snacking or to prep ingredients for meals later in the day. It’s easier to do those hard tasks when you have the most energy.
Step 2 | Chunk big goals down into smaller goals
It’s easy to reach for the stars and get carried away with goals. But doing so can quickly become overwhelming. It may be tempting or even necessary to do a complete overhaul of your life. Setting a single goal a time rather than several at once can make achieving that goal more manageable. There’s a saying that the longest journey begins with a single step. Rather than focus on that far away destination, focus on each step at a time. Chunking your big goals down into smaller parts allows you to gradually build up your focus over time. Plus, you’ll get to celebrate all those small wins along the way rather than one big win at the end.
Step 3 | Create an environment to succeed
The structures you put into place can make a big difference in helping you succeed. Structure applies to your schedule and your physical surroundings. You’ll want to remove temptations and instead add things that will help you achieve your goals. To eat more vegetables, for example, you could stop buying other snack foods like chips and instead buy carrots and hummus so that you only have the choice to eat the carrots and hummus. Setting a schedule helps you establish a routine so that over time, your goal activities become habits.
Step 4 | Get others involved
Even the world’s greatest athletes have coaches who help keep them accountable and on track. Everybody needs help sometimes. It’s okay to ask for help and to accept it. You could ask trusted family members or friends to help you achieve your goals. Doing so could even create more opportunities for bonding and interaction. Depending on your goal, there may be an app available that can give you daily reminders and motivations. You may need to consult a professional such as your primary care provider or a behavioral specialist. Don’t be shy about asking for help and feedback.
Step 5 | Be flexible and experimental
Sometimes what sounds good in theory ends up being a disaster in practice. That’s okay. Failure is not something that should be avoided. Rather, it should be embraced because it helps you learn and improve. When you take perfection off the table, you have more opportunities for play, discovery and delight. There’s no single way to achieve most things in life. Often the path to your goal is winding with twists and turns and even some dead ends.
Step 6 | Be compassionate with yourself
You might be your own harshest critic. Perhaps this has served you well over the years and helped you achieve past goals. The fear of failure and beating yourself up can be powerful motivators after all. But consider this: what it would be like to speak to yourself like you would a close friend or family member? What if you were able to show yourself the same compassion, kindness and care as you would someone you love? Chances are, you’d feel more empowered to seek out your goals if you felt more supported. You’d probably enjoy the process more too. When you show yourself more compassion, it can be easier to dust yourself off after a fall (real or metaphorical). Having compassion for yourself helps you separate your self worth from your actions. It helps you to be clear eyed about what isn’t working and why and what to do about it. If you find you’re consistently falling short of where you want to be, perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the goal itself and/or how you’re trying to achieve it.
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