Mapping Out A Healthy New Year
Does the thought of creating goals for the New Year make you cringe? Sometimes, dealing with the symptoms of chronic illness can generate the feeling of defeat before we even begin.
Creating goals doesn’t have to be painful.
I’ve read studies that show that New Year’s resolutions are beneficial. I’ve also seen ones that report the exact opposite. It obviously depends on what goals were studied and how they were implemented. It also depends on the author’s intent. Sometimes articles contain headlines and content purposely chosen to be contrarian.
That’s not the purpose here. The purpose of this article is to simplify the issue of goal-setting and provide actionable tips.
The first key point is that whether you call them goals, plans, or resolutions, it’s still important to create them. We’ve all heard a variety of adages similar to a goal without a deadline is just a wish.
Without a plan, how do you know where you want to go?
I think of goals as our own personal road map to our desired future. Notice that I emphasize that they point us toward the future that we desire. Going in the direction of where we want to go rather than bumping along in reaction to our circumstances provides completely different results.
Another old adage comes to mind. Lewis Carroll said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”
Do you want to take just any road?
You Are Here
Imagine you’ve just passed through the entry gates to a Disney theme park. Since we’re using our imagination, also imagine that you feel fit, healthy, and full of energy. You want to see as much as possible in the time available.
The first thing you notice is that the entry path splits off in several directions. The multiple signage arrows point to Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland and more. The options are endless, the shows and parades look dazzling, and because of all that’s offered, you feel a bit overwhelmed.
How can you make the most of your day?
You’d likely use a map. In fact, the first thing handed to every guest at the gate is a map of the park and a schedule of the shows and parades. You can make educated choices as to what you’d like to see and highlight what’s important.
Let’s take this example to the next level. Imaging flying abroad to a foreign country. Would you consider getting off the plan without first having some sort of plan? Even if you’re a fan of spontaneity, you’d likely plan the basics such as lodging and transportation. Advance planning can be the key to success in any adventure.
The Adventure of Life:
Holding on to a Map or Happenstance
Many of us weren’t taught goal-setting skills in school. If we learned them at all, it may have been later in life through a business setting. It’s understandable that goals can be very effective and productive at work. But what about personal goals?
Is your healthy future as important as your business future?
We don’t often give our personal goals the same amount of attention or emphasis as we do other areas in our lives. We tend to overcomplicate things and say that it would take too long or would be too hard.
Writing out our personal health goals doesn’t have to be all that complicated. When my clients discuss New Year’s Resolutions, they typically mention negative or unwanted behaviors. They talk about wanting to stop eating sweets, lessen their tendency to overeat, stop procrastinating, or stop being a couch potato.
There are better ways to create a positive focus.
I don’t view goal-setting as only a “January thing.” And I don’t refer to them as resolutions. I’m not looking for resolve in myself or for my clients. I’m looking to set a simple and easy-to-follow plan.
Because this is so crucial to a healthy outcome, it’s not uncommon for me to spend quite a bit of time with clients on this subject. Together, we establish clear and concise goals.
This can make all the difference in the world.
To help point you toward a positive and healthy future, here are a few simple tips to writing effective goals.
- Write them down. Yes, you must. (By hand is best. Don’t miss out on that kinesthetic connection between your hand and your words.)
- I’m sure you’ve heard of this step – it’s helpful to write your goals using a S.M.A.R.T. format. Make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.
- Use positive and “toward” language — meaning, write what you do want rather than what you don’t want.
- Write them in the present tense. (i.e., “It is now March 1st and I am ….”)
- Keep them flexible. Change is inevitable and flexibility keeps you on track.
- Make sure to SIGN YOUR GOALS list in ink. Commit to yourself!
- Make ‘em vivid and juicy! Include every sense when writing your goals. What will you see, hear, taste, smell, or touch when you achieve them?
- Keep in mind that it’s about the process and not about perfection. If a goal requires adherence to 100% follow-through, revise it to make allowances for real-life scenarios.
More Goal-Setting Resources
If you’d like to clarify what a sharp and specific goal can look like, check out this post: “How to Lose Your Fuzzy Goals and Get Sharp!”
Here’s more information on how tapping into your core values can enhance your goals and motivation. Included is a link to a free downloadable Core Values Chart and a link to a free Motivational Poster.
Did you get a FitBit for Christmas? Any sort of tracking method – including a FitBit – can prove very effective when it comes to sticking with your health goals. If you’re looking to achieve that 10,000 step landmark goal, you may wish to check out this, “Do You Really Need 10,000 Steps?”.
And, here’s a big myth that may keep you stuck: falling short of a goal is failure. Not so! Falling short of a goal still means you experienced overall gain. In fact, it’s gain you wouldn’t have had without setting a goal. Enjoy this article from Michael Hyatt that details this and four other often-told myths about goal-setting.
Writing out your personalized health goals has one more surprising benefit. Using them as a roadmap to your healthy future prevents mental fatigue!
For those of us who dither over making decisions (who, me?), having things planned and mapped out can really be an effective time-saver. It’s much easier to decide on tasks, meals, outings, projects, and priorities when you have an overall map to follow.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. You may jot down a few goals for the New Year or write out paragraphs in exquisite detail. It’s up to you. But please do write them.
Excuse me for mixing my roadmap and nautical navigational metaphors, but Oliver Wendell Holmes said it so well …
“We must sail sometimes with the wind,
and sometimes against it – but we must sail,
and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
Are you ready to create your own map?
Sue Ingebretson is a frequent contributor to ProHealth. She’s an Amazon best-selling author, speaker, and workshop leader. Additionally, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. You can find out more and contact Sue at www.RebuildingWellness.com.