By Linda Hogg, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach
A journey in health and wellness begins with a vision. Create an image in your mind of where you are going — your end result — and what steps you need to take to get there.
As with any challenging adventure, it is important to acknowledge your individual goals – have you brain-stormed or written them down? Is your plan “S.M.A.R.T.” (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound)? Before any long, successful journey, yet especially with nutrition and fitness, setting goals becomes your chance to get specific with your intentions and to state how those intentions will become effort. The best actions are those which are realized and brainstormed, well-written, and then adjusted along the way. Early on, taking the time for creative thought is essential! Honor your interests and preferences so that your goals are realistic and will make you feel successful.
Based on your personality and abilities, it is important for you to either be broad with your goals, such as stating that you will join the YMCA by March 1st, or if it helps you to stay focused, get specific by stating that you will join the gym and attend your first class by March 1st. Remember that you will feel more empowered by choosing your goals, rather than letting a health care provider, a trainer or a health coach determine what your goals should be. You, as the leader of your team, will be more likely to come up with ideas which are achievable and appropriate to your life. Your health coach can help you pinpoint what is most important, and help maneuver your way around any obstacles you encounter.
As you set up your plan, what specific goals would you like to work on first? What changes are you interested in making? Is there a specific exploration activity or an experiment you can set up to see if one of your ideas is a good fit? Perhaps a trial run would be helpful? For example, you may be contemplating joining a gym. You may know of several facilities available to you, yet you are not familiar with them. Try setting a goal to purchase a one-time guest pass or arrange a free tour with a couple of facilities which interest you. By contacting the facility, you would meet one step in a goal. By showing up, you have taken the next step. By looking around and imagining yourself at that facility, you have taken an important step. It may be too much to go from thinking about the gym to joining blindly. Know more!
Here is an example of how to set a goal and break it into steps:
Goal: I will join the YMCA and attend a beginner yoga class, 3 times per week.
Breakdown of steps:
- I will arrange a tour and orientation by a staff member at the YMCA.
- I will check on the fees involved and plan the cost into my budget.
- I will initiate the membership by paying fees and signing an agreement.
- I will make sure I have supportive shoes and comfortable clothes.
- I will determine what days works into my work and home schedule.
- I will prepare my gym bag, water bottle, and a light snack in advance.
- I will show up and do my best by learning yoga and asking questions.
When setting a goal and breaking down the steps, try to follow these guidelines:
- The goal or step supports your personal autonomy
- The goal or step instills confidence within
- The goal or step promotes independence with future goal-setting
If goals seem too lofty, simply step back, have patience, be graceful to yourself and approach the goal slowly. Avoid talking yourself out of the goal, but instead go back to it when the time is right. Let goals be either too small or too big, and then keep practicing until they seem right.
One way of practicing is to set up a trial run. Make smaller goals that are achievable, and once you have success with those, you can start creating larger goals that lead to permanent lifestyle change. Set up a temporary change, test out behavior, and visualize it from many angles. Reflect on it from many angles? Are you capable of the change? Do you like the change? Does the change influence others around you? Collect data and decide if the results are positive or negative. Decide if you need to change the plan or re-think it completely. Goals related to nutrition and fitness must be aimed at excellence – avoid perfectionist thinking and an all-or-nothing attitude, or you may give up. Instead, begin anew by taking different steps toward the goal!
Remember that motivation is based on factors such as your individual abilities, your personal confidence, and your internal belief that efforts to change will work. You must give yourself applause and feel the small successes within to continue on your individual journey in wellness!
Let others support and encourage you – look for those who will help celebrate your successes and help you work through obstacles you discover along the way. Empower yourself with knowledge about yourself and what works and what does not. Use what you have learned to move forward on the path to success – to the overall vision you saw from the start.