Setting Health Goals? Try My Write-Plan-Partner-Check Method
It’s the start of a new year, and when the calendar turns over to January 1 about 45 percent of Americans set resolutions. At the top of the list for last year’s resolutions? Weight loss. And under that umbrella goal of weight loss is usually a plan to eat better and exercise more.
Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of people who set New Year’s resolutions are successful in their goals. While the tendency may be to blame weight loss “failures” on busy schedules, lack of motivation or even laziness, I don’t see those reasons as the most-likely causes.
I believe people would be more successful with their goals if they simply set them differently.
I don’t typically set New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I set specific, regular goals for my health all year round. The reason is simple: A healthy lifestyle is just that—a lifestyle. That means that it is a part of what I do, and the choices I make, each and every day of my life. Expecting myself to magically change overnight at the start of the new year seems both unrealistic and a lot of unnecessary pressure.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t set big health goals to kick off a new year. But be sure to also set smaller goals to help you measure progress as you reach your healthy living objectives. My “write-plan-partner-check method” might help:
Write. Start by writing your goals down. Make sure they’re specific. For example, instead of writing, “I want to lose weight,” write, “I want to lose 12 pounds within five months.” Instead of writing, “I want to eat a healthier diet,” write, “I want to limit my meat intake to twice per week and eat one additional serving of fruit and one additional serving of vegetables daily.” You might even write a short paragraph about what achieving your goals will mean for your quality of life.
Keep your written goals somewhere you can find them easily so you can refer back to them during your journey. I’ve heard of people who write their goals on an index card and place them somewhere they see often, like the bathroom mirror, to provide a constant reminder of what they’re working toward.
Plan. Once you’ve narrowed down your goal, set smaller goals. The idea is to keep your goals at the forefront of your decision-making; reaching smaller milestones along the way can also help keep you motivated toward a bigger goal. Drawing on the above example, let’s say you want to lose 12 pounds in five months. Realistic mini-goals would be to lose at least one pound per week, which would take you to your larger goal in about three months. To lose at least one pound per week, you’d need to have a calorie deficit of at least 500 calories per day. In other words, you’d need to burn around 500 more calories than you consume in a day.
Get out your calendar or smartphone and actually add your goals to your schedule. For example, starting with the first week you plan to adopt your lifestyle changes, write “Goal: Lose at least one pound.” Some people even plan their weekly workout regimen and meals at the beginning of each week.
There are several smartphone apps and websites dedicated to tracking workouts, calories, weight and fitness goals; one of these would likely be a helpful planning tool.
Partner. Research conducted at the Dominican University of California showed that people who write their goals down, share their goals with a friend and update that friend on their status weekly were 33 percent more likely to achieve their goals. I suggest taking that a step further by finding someone who is willing to work alongside you—someone who is also making healthy changes in his or her life. A colleague, friend or family member usually makes a great health partner. My partner is my wife, Sharon…and our two dogs, who get us out of bed early each morning!
Check. After you’ve written your goals down, planned for success and found a fitness partner, the next step is to check your progress. At the start of each week, assess where you’re at and what you’ve done right during the week; then acknowledge places where you might make better choices next week. Writing in a fitness journal each week can be a good way to reflect on where you’re at with your health; you can also see how far you’ve come by rereading past entries. A smartphone app or fitness website can also be a great motivator, helping you keep tabs on your successes along the way.
The write-plan-partner-check method is just one way you can start your own personal health journey. Try it, and be willing to modify it until it works for you. I’m thankful that I went through my own health transformation over 10 years ago, and my hope is that everyone can experience the freedom and vitality of healthy living. The start to a healthy lifestyle is setting goals.
Tell us: What tips can you share for reaching your goals?