Setting Attainable Goals for a Healthy Lifestyle
It seems so easy, doesn’t it? To become inspired by something and decide you’re going to make a change in your life. You set a goal, do the work, and – before you know it – you’ve accomplished that goal! But it isn’t quite that simple, is it? Change is hard. That’s why people so often give up on their goals. They become overwhelmed, lose their drive, and end up right back where they started – which is not where they want to be.
It’s not that we lose our desire to accomplish our goals; we just decide it’s not worth the effort anymore, because we’ve made it harder than it needs to be. We start out with the best of intentions, but when we fail, we’re left feeling bad about ourselves for even trying. So, how do we change this? What’s the magic formula that will keep us motivated so we will want to continue working towards our goals? This article will share a few essential concepts to help you set attainable goals and teach you how to achieve them. We will focus on health-centered goal examples, but you can use these concepts to fit any goal!
First and foremost, your goal needs to be specific. I want to get into better shape – there’s a good goal, right? Well, what does that mean exactly? I want to lose weight? I want to lower my cholesterol? I want to tone up? I want to live until I’m 100 and not be tied to a ton of medications? What am I really looking for here? The overall idea behind my goal is to get into better shape, but the goal itself needs to have more definition. For our example, I’m going to say that I want to lose 50 pounds. Wow. That’s a big goal! Already I feel a sense of dread for how long this is going to take me and how much effort this is going to take – how much sacrifice I’m going to have to make.
To help me conquer the sense of dread, I’m going to break this goal down. Instead of saying I’m going to lose 50 pounds, I’m going to set an initial goal of losing 10 pounds. Ahh, that sounds better already. I can totally handle 10 pounds! Now I just need to decide how I am going to make that happen. More walking? Better eating? Yes! I’ll walk five miles a day and stick to 1200 calories a day, or I’ll get up early enough before work to spend an hour at the gym, four or five times a week, and I’ll completely change my diet overnight to low carb or no meat -- something drastic!
I already feel overwhelmed again. Do I seriously think I am going change my habits overnight and drag myself out of bed all week to go to the gym? Do I really think I’m going to maintain that lifestyle if I’m already dreading it? On top if that, I’ve changed my entire diet and restricted everything I love overnight. We do this to ourselves all the time, and it’s why we struggle to develop lifelong, successful habits. We take a huge leap and are left feeling exhausted, hungry, unhappy with the process, and sort of grumpy about life in general after a while.
Instead of making these huge changes, keep it simple, especially if you aren’t currently doing any dieting or have any sort of regular exercise routine. Walk one mile a day, three or four days per week, and when that feels easy enough to you, add a mile or a day. Once you get to a place where you are walking a few miles each time, several days per week, then challenge yourself to pick up the pace a bit. It’s important to start small and learn to enjoy it, then add to it. Showing up for each small workout session will establish a habit, and a habit can turn into a lifestyle. If you’ve been walking regularly and are ready for something more, read our blog articles about short hikes and day hikes!
You can see some amazing places when you get outdoors and start exploring! Read more about this Colorado waterfall here! Copyright hiking mojo.
If you prefer the indoors (especially when the weather isn’t cooperating), try the gym just three times a week for 30 minutes instead of going full-blown into an overwhelming working regimen. You can also workout at home by doing a few basic exercises, or even by working out with your video gaming system. One of my favorite home workouts is to put my headphones in and dance. You’d be surprised how much of a workout this is and how many steps this can get you! I always think of these indoor workouts as training sessions for future hikes.
Want to eat better? Instead of trying to change everything immediately, start with a few small changes. Incorporate more fresh foods into your diet. Maybe instead of bringing home chips, crackers, and cookies you bring home chips, bananas, and cashews. Keep the healthier options in front of the chips so you see them first. Portion the chips out into single servings so you recognize how many calories you are consuming.
Once you are more used to eating the whole foods, cut back on how often you snack on the chips; someday maybe you’ll decide to cut them out completely! Is cutting out processed foods a great way to live a longer, healthier life? Absolutely! But, for most of us, jumping right into this way of eating overnight isn’t realistic for the long-term. Make those small changes and commit to sticking to them – then build from there.
Want to cut back on your meat consumption? Try cutting back your portions at first – maybe cut your normal portion in half and replace it with veggies, fruits, or whole grains. Have meatless meals a couple of days each week. Work yourself up to the level of consumption you feel good about, and have fun doing it. Try new things! Get the kids involved in choosing what’s for dinner. Cook with your partner and create together! Discovering enjoyment during the process will help you develop and keep those habits.
I could go on and on with the food examples, but you get the idea; make small changes, stick to them, then build on them.
What’s going to keep you going when you don’t feel like doing this anymore? What’s your core reasoning behind wanting to make a change? I’ve taught goal setting workshops many times over the last decade, and I’ve been blessed with drawing out some strong emotional responses from class participants, helping them to dig deep and understand why this change is so important to them. Some people began the workshop with a simple goal of wanting to lose weight, only to discover what they really wanted was to be around for their kids. Some wanted to make sure they were there to witness the most important moments of their child’s life, and others wanted to set a good example and lead their children down a path towards a healthier lifestyle.
What do you really want? Do you want to be around for your family? For your partner? Do you want to get off the medications you’re on and live a better, more productive life? Not only do I want to live to be 100; I want to live well at 100. I don’t want to be tied to my home and medications. I don’t want to miss out on travel or hiking. I want to discover and explore, and I want to be healthy enough to do it. As you work do discover your reason, think about the “why” behind each answer. Keep asking yourself about the why until you realize your true core reasoning.
Here’s an example involving a woman from a class I taught:
Why do you want to lose 60 pounds?
- So I can feel better.
Why do you want to feel better?
- So I can be more active with my kids?
Why do you want to be more active with you kids?
- So I can participate in their lives rather than just watch. I want them to remember me being an active mom.
Why do you want them to remember you being an active mom?
- Because my mom wasn’t, and I really wish that had been different.
So, the core reasoning behind wanting to lose the weight was to be the mother for her kids that she wishes she’d had for herself. That’s big. It’s a solid reason to keep working hard to meet that goal. Throughout your journey, and especially when you feel like giving up, remind yourself about the real reason you are doing this.
Lastly, celebrate your successes! This part is too often skipped, but it is truly a very important and special part of the process. Make a big deal out of your awesomeness! Reflect upon the effort it took to get there and celebrate your hard work and dedication! Don’t downplay this part of your journey – meeting small goals are still major successes! Think about how you got there. Take a picture! Celebrate by communicating your success to your supporters. Smile about it! Meeting goals feels GOOD! Afterwards, think about your next goal, make some more small changes, and conquer what’s next.
Remember these concepts:
- Determine what it is you’re really trying to do; what’s your real goal? Be specific.
- Make small changes; commit to seeing them through.
- Discover your core reasoning for doing this; remind yourself often.
- Celebrate your successes!
- Set new goals.
We’ve all got the power inside of us to make lifelong changes and become exactly who we want to be. Each day brings us new and exciting opportunities to meet our goals. What will you do with your opportunities?!