3 Steps to Achieving Health Goals

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Well, it’s March, almost Spring.  Have you kept true to your New Year’s Resolutions?  It’s only been a couple of months, but I’ll bet a lot of those lofty resolutions have hit the dirt; you’re only human, after all.

Everyone has made a New Year’s resolution at one point or another. You set a goal to change things in some way, usually to benefit your physical or mental health. You might even stick to it for a while, but your goal is harder than your thought to achieve, and you fall by the wayside.

 It’s hard to make changes in life, especially with regards to your health. There are those who succeed and the vast majority who fail. What separates the two? 

It’s a fact of life that even the most successful people sometimes fail. Despite their best efforts and the best of intentions, other factors (like life) cause the best-laid plans of mice and men to go straight down the drain. Everyone hits that bump on the road, but some can overcome the obstacle and meet their goal. It’s all relates to how they respond to adversity.

I’ve written articles on survival in adversity, and there are a few differences between those people who can get back on the horse after they’ve been thrown off and those who can’t.  How can you join the few still on the saddle? Here’s 3 simple tips for success in tough times and circumstances:

 

Make your health goal a positive one.

Getting into a positive mind-set isn’t easy, and many people set goals that are just plain negative.  An example of a negative goal is to eat less food.  An example of a positive one is to eat healthier.  

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, setting a goal is like wooing a crocodile:  You’re never sure whether to tickle it under the chin or beat it over the head with a stick. My point: You have to decide if a negative goal is better than a positive goal. I say it isn’t.

Negative goals are tough to reach because you’re not learning any new strategies. You’re just continually trying to stop yourself or beat yourself over the head when you stray.   I’ll admit that whacking your hand with a ruler every time you reach for food may have you eating less. The problem is that you haven’t figured out a positive way of achieving your goal, like planning out a new diet you can live with.  As such, the chance of long term success is low.

Even when you successfully resist temptation, you’re not training your mind and body to make a permanent change. You should make your goal a positive one: Emphasize things you can do to achieve your goal rather than just deny yourself.

  

No health goal should be all or nothing

Many people (even physicians)  tend to think in black or white, but there are many shades of gray in between. Let’s say your resolution is to exercise more, and you plan a daily physical fitness routine.

To begin with, good for you! you have set up a plan of positive action that should improve your health and stamina.  However, what happens the first time you miss an exercise session?  You feel guilty and discouraged, don’t you?

The key is to set reasonable goals that won’t set you up for failure.  Exercising daily is great, but you might just feel very sore if you’re not used to it.  You need a break here and there, but you didn’t plan breaks into your daily fitness routines.  Result:  The feeling of failure when you really haven’t failed at all!  You’re doing a heck of a lot more exercise than you did last year, and you should feel a sense of accomplishment.

Be certain to adjust your goals to fit into a reasonable shade of gray, and not be so hard on yourself.  Think of any small failure as a temporary setback and a lesson learned. Then, get back on the bicycle and ride.

Control your health environment.

Environmental factors are a big reason for failure to survive after a disaster.  If you haven’t planned for the environment, you have it a (formidable) enemy.  This goes for your health goals, as well.

For example, let’s say you want to quit smoking, but all your friends smoke and it drives you nuts when you’re the only one in the room not lighting up.  It’s hard to resist temptation, and it’s harder to ask others not to lead you into it. If you don’t, however, you’re allowing environmental factors to control your failure or success.

Of course, you could replace your friends.It’s probably the most effective strategy, but it might be more reasonable to replace that cigarette with some nicotine gum.  Make a rule that smoking only occurs at certain times of the day or in certain areas (say, outside the house).  This doesn’t eliminate the issue, but it’s taking a step towards your being able to control some of the factors that cause you to smoke, and you will end up smoking less.

Following these simple steps will give you a better chance at succeeding at your health goals in good times OR bad.

AuthorJoe

Joe Alton, M.D., aka Dr. Bones

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