Okay, you have had enough. Maybe you are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Perhaps you don’t like what you see when you look in the mirror, or step on the scale. When you ask yourself the question, “When was the last time I felt healthy?” you can’t recall when that actually was. Finally, now, at this moment, you have reached the point where you are ready to do something about it. Where do you begin?
You need a plan
Would you build a house without having a set of blueprints? Would you try and get to an unfamiliar destination without some directions on how to get there? Believe it or not, step one on your journey to better health does not start with a plan. Let me repeat that so you know it is not a misprint. Step one is not to develop a plan. The first step is establishing some goals.
Here is a useful analogy–if you wanted to build a ship, you first need to decide what you want the ship to do: travel long distances, carry a large amount of cargo, transport passengers, go fast, etc. Step one is deciding what you want the ship to do, i.e. what the ultimate goal or goals you want to achieve in building the ship. Conceptually this is where you need to begin and the same is true about achieving your goals to be healthier.
The remaining steps are pretty straightforward and constitute your actual plan. These include the design phase, the building phase, the implementation phase, and the monitoring phase. Breaking this down into the component parts, you first need to establish goals and then plan your tactics and strategies to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Planning requires design, build, implementation, and monitoring steps. Returning to the ship analogy, once you have decided what you want the ship to do, then you need to design it, build it, sail it, and monitor its performance to see if it actually does what you wanted it to do. The process is not much different when approaching your health. Let’s briefly look at these different elements.
You may have some pretty concrete ideas and goals about what you want to achieve such as, “I want to lose ten pounds.” Often, our health goals are a bit more amorphous such as, “I want to feel better, or feel happier, or have more energy.” The first example has a measurable outcome and is entirely objective—ten pounds is just that. The other listed goals are subjective and therefore more difficult to measure. When you list your goals, separate out the objective and the subjective goals. Next to each goal, identify how you will know you have made progress towards meeting that goal or fully achieving that goal. Also list a timeline for accomplishing this. In establishing a timeline, be realistic. A way to measure and some time elements are crucial for this first step as these pieces are used later in the plan for monitoring success.
For each goal that you identify it is important to ask yourself why you want to achieve this particular health outcome. If you are not clear about why something is important to you, it is very difficult to have the sustained motivation and discipline required to achieve the goal.
The clearer you can be in developing goals and reasons why achieving these goals are important to you, as well as a realistic time frame to accomplish these health outcomes, the better you can then write the rest of the plan.
Take each goal and spend time formulating the design for each goal separately. If you want to exercise an hour daily, look at your weekly schedule and determine where those hours are going to fit in. If you leave it undetermined, chances are good it just will not happen. Have contingencies in your plan design. If something comes up and means you have to rearrange your schedule, where in the design do you allow for such contingencies? You may have the best intentions when it comes to working on a health goal, but in the design phase think of reasons why your intentions might not be met and design ways around potential failure. You want to succeed not fail. A crucial way to help guarantee your success is to design a plan with failsafe elements to make sure you succeed.
In places where it makes sense, design your plan to include key support people. Who can you get to help you achieve your desired health goals? Trustworthy friends and family who are willing to support, encourage, and motivate you should be carefully thought out in your design. Again, having backups and contingencies designed into your plan will help to maximize your chance of success.
You should also include in your design how you plan to monitor your progress. This aspect of measurement and the specifics of how you plan to measure your progress is an often neglected design element. Do not make the mistake of failing to include this important design element.
Think back to the ship; you have thoughtfully considered what you want this ship to do and developed a solid design. Great! Now comes the time to build it. The energy of building is different than the energy of design. It really is a matter of looking at the design plan for each health goal and devoting the time and other resources into how you will take the design and put it into practice. It is not much different from looking at the blueprints for a building and then to start building. You need the lumber, hammers, nails, manpower and other resources to do the actual building.
Time to set sail. Get started on this part of your journey towards better health. There is not much more to be said for this part of the plan. After all your hard work in establishing goals, designing, and building, now comes the time to begin to put your plan into action. Get going!
I have tried to emphasize this important part of your plan in my recommendations about goal setting and design. However, if you have determined the way you are monitoring your progress towards achieving the objective and subjective health goals you have selected, measure how you are doing. Are you on target, ahead of schedule, behind schedule?
If you are not meeting your targeted goals, you need to seriously ask yourself why or why not. You then have a couple of options. You can modify the goal or you can tweak the design and build the modifications into a revised plan. Always be honest in evaluating yourself against your outcomes. Were you unrealistic in setting a goal, encountered unexpected obstacles, unplanned circumstances get in the way, suffered a motivation lapse, etc.?
The better you can honestly look at your performance and understand why you are or are not accomplishing what you want to accomplish, the further you will get in actually arriving at your destination.