The New Year brings with it a fresh start in planning your new health goals. Whether it’s changing an eating habit to lose weight or for an immediate health risk, to train for a physical activity or event, or to get into that swimsuit for the first time in years, success depends on sensible and achievable strategic planning.
Here are some tips on planning for your health goal success:
Decide on measurable steps to achieve your goal.
For example, if you are using walking as your physical exercise, how far are you going to walk? For how long? How many days each week are you going to walk? If you are focusing on your nutrition, for example if you are lowering or giving up sugar—how long? How much? During all meals or only during the week.
Track and review your progress each week. Were you able to successfully meet your goals last week? Think about what worked and what didn’t. Then plan for how you will reach your goals next week.
Focus on what’s attainable and relevant to you
Set goals that are within your capabilities and that take into account your limitations. Consider your personal fitness level, health concerns, budget, available time and motivation. Tailoring your expectations to your personal situation helps you set achievable goals. Don’t wait till you can afford to buy a new pair of running shoes or yoga pants, use what you have and make that a mini reward for achieving a milestone in your goal. If you can’t make time to work out side the home or if the weather is not ideal for walking, use your house as a indoor gyms—stairs to carry laundry or toys up and down make a great cardio workout throughout the day. Make everyday an opportunity to be working toward your health goal.
Think about timing
Timing is crucial, often making the difference between success and failure. Choose a definite start date for your health goal and don’t put that date off. Be sure to account for life circumstances that might hamper your efforts, such as work or school demands, vacations or relationship problems. You may need to resolve some issues before starting.
Set both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals keep you engaged on a daily basis, but long-term goals motivate you over the long haul. Your short-term goals are the stepping stones to your long-term goal.
Focus on the process
Make the most of your process goals, rather than outcome goals. For example, ”Exercise three times a week or cut carbs during the week” is an example of a process goal, while “weigh 145 pounds” is an example of an outcome goal. Process goals are easier to plan strategy and see the immediate success of your effort and discipline, while outcome goals can take much longer to see results. It’s changing your processes — your daily behaviors and habits — that’s key to weight loss, not necessarily focusing on a specific number on the scale.
Plan for setbacks
Setbacks are a natural part of behavior change. Everyone who successfully makes changes in his or her life has experienced setbacks. Identifying potential roadblocks — a big holiday meal or office party, for example, and brainstorming specific strategies to overcome them can help you stay on course or get back on course. This is where tracking your progress is vital in strategically planning ahead for known roadblocks and returning back to focus.
Reassess and adjust your goals as needed
Be willing to change your goals as you make progress in your health goal plan. If you started small, you might be ready to take on larger challenges sooner or amp up your efforts if you are not reaching milestone targets. Or, you might find that you need to adjust your goals to better fit your new lifestyle as it changes. Goal setting is a fluid process, and giving yourself the ability to adjust as life develops will set the tone for success.
What are your health goals? Are you ready to start the journey to a lifetime of wellness? Share your stories in the comments below.