Have you ever wondered why so many New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by late January or early February? For most of us, it's lack of planning rather than lack of motivation that causes us to abandon our resolutions!
Losing weight, quitting smoking, and “getting healthy” are common yearly promises. Unfortunately, these promises often lack a detailed plan. Without a plan, these promises become wishful thinking or aspirational resolutions.
So, how does one go about turning an aspirational resolution into an achievable goal? Follow these seven steps, and you will be well on your way to becoming your healthiest self!
Step 1: Identify your aspirational goal (for example, lose weight)
Step 2: Choose one specific action you can do to help you achieve your goal. For weight loss, exercise and diet often come to mind. However, these alone are very vague. What specific change in your diet do you want to make? What specific type of exercise are you willing to do? For either of these examples, you need to pick something you’re really willing to do, rather than something you think you should do.
Step 3: After you choose your specific action, you need to quantify the action. In other words, how much and how often are you willing to take this action? Your how much and how often need to be realistic. Only you can decide what’s realistic for you, but if you're not participating in any type of physical activity, are you really going to go on the treadmill for 60 minutes every day of the week? Similarly, if you eat fast food for lunch five days a week, are you really going to stop eating fast food all together? The answer to both questions may very well be yes. If so, then great! We’ll get back to how realistic your action is when we talk about confidence.
Step 4: Now that you’ve quantified your action by choosing how much, you need to plan the when. That’s right-if you are making an exercise plan, then you need to schedule it. Are you going to set your alarm early so you can exercise before you go to work? Perhaps you’re allowed to take a longer lunch break and get in a work out? The key is to pick out something that will work for you and your life. In other words, if you’re not an early riser, then perhaps planning to exercise before work isn’t going to be the plan for you.
Step 5: Assess your confidence. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no confidence and 10 being 100% complete and full confidence, how confident are you that you are going to follow this plan? If your confidence is a 7 or higher, then this is a good plan for you. However, if your confidence is less than a 7, take a look at your plan and see what you can change to boost your confidence. (Using the example in step 3, maybe 20 minutes on the treadmill two days a week is more realistic for you). Confidence is important-if you're not confident you can stick with your own plan, then make a plan you can stick with!
Step 6: Write your plan down and keep track of it! You can do this the old fashion way with pencil and paper, or you can download any number of smartphone apps to keep track of your progress.
Step 7: Repeat steps 1-6. You can choose the same plan as last week or you can change the plan by increasing your how much and how often. You can also add a second action plan if you’re feeling up for it. In other words, if you met your exercise plan, maybe you are ready to add a food behavior plan.
Now let’s put it all together to see what it looks like!
Step 1: Aspirational Goal:
I want to lose this excess weight I’ve gained.
Step 2: Specific Action:
I’m going to start attending yoga classes.
Step 3a. How much:
Step 3b: How often:
Two days per week
Step 4: When:
Mondays and Wednesdays, right after work.
Step 5: Confidence level:
On a scale of 1-10, my confidence level is an 8. I know I can do this because the yoga center is across the street from my work, my husband says he can pick up the kids, and my best friend is going to join me.
Step 6: Keep track of your progress.
Step 7: Repeat the same goal, change the goal, or add a goal.
Now that you know how to set an action plan, you are on your way to becoming your healthiest self!
If you’re looking for some extra help, guidance, and feedback on your action planning, check out the Whole Food Is Medicine monthly follow up services plan!