No great dream starts without a plan. Your desire to improve your health may spring from a number of different sources, but any health program begins with the identification of goals and the creation of a plan. Here are some tips to get started.
Create Specific, Achievable Goals
Losing weight, lowering cholesterol or running a marathon are goals that require many smaller steps. Instead of focusing on the big end goal, set up a series of small, achievable goals. For instance, increase the time you spend running by 10 minutes per day. After a week of progress, re-assess and increase your endurance by adding a few more minutes. Starting low and slow helps foster sustainable progress.
Measure Your Progress
Nothing is more objective than a number. Rather than focusing on a general goal like eating more vegetables or running every day, establish a measurable goal. Try eating vegetables three times a week or running 20 minutes three days a week. Measurable goals are easily monitored and help you keep yourself accountable.
Breaking bigger goals into smaller goals allows you to create milestones. Reward yourself for reaching them. Value those small rewards and appreciate their place in your path to greater outcomes.
Set A Timeline
Setting a timeline helps you through those stretches when your efforts seem futile. Some helpful timelines might be as short as a week. For instance, within one week you might plan to run three times for twenty minutes. When it seems as if you cannot accomplish the goal, you can remind yourself that you only need to get through the week. Trust that these small changes make a difference.
Visualize your Goals and Rewards
Harvard Medical School researchers have found that visual reminders such as pictures of your dream vacation or entry forms for an athletic competition help keep you on task. Visual reminders ground you in reality and remind you of why you are working so hard.
Move The Goalposts
One of the key elements of a successful health goal is its level of practicality. You might choose a health goal that is specific, timely and seems reasonable but once you put it into practice you discover that the steps you must take to reach the goal are unrealistic. Perhaps you aren’t a morning person, which makes sticking to a morning routine difficult. Whatever the reason, in the course of meeting your goal you have been faced with realities that had not been considered during the planning stage. That’s alright. You can change the goalposts when necessary in order to make your goals realistic and attainable.
You might find that your overall health goals are fairly generic: lose weight, lower cholesterol, cut back on sugar. But when you break them down into small and specific goals, you will find that they are more meaningful. You will achieve the same overall result by embracing changes that are personalized and achievable for you.