Have you ever promised yourself, “I’m going to eat healthier,” “I’m going to exercise more,” or “I’m going to lose weight,” but constantly found yourself falling back into your old habits?
It probably comes as no surprise that healthy living and weight management are two of the most common areas where people want to improve.
But what does it look like to work towards a goal of “living healthier” or “losing weight”? Can you clearly envision the steps you need to take to get there?
When setting a goal like this, it is essential to think about the “what,” “why,” and “how.” Focusing on an aspect of your life that you want to improve (i.e. exercise, nutrition) forms the basis for what your goal is. Reflecting on your deeply-held values and the purpose connected to this goal creates the “why” behind it (i.e. more self-confidence, increased energy levels). When it comes to how you will go about working towards your goal, it’s important to have a plan in place that will guide you through actionable steps to get there (i.e. walking every day, eliminating sugar).
How to Set and Achieve Your Goal
What does it mean to lead a more balanced lifestyle? More specifically, what does it mean to “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” or “manage stress better”? Overarching goals like these are often vague and need to be connected to a more concrete action. Otherwise, how do you know if you actually ate healthier, exercised more, or lowered your stress? Any time you set a goal or resolution, it should come with an objective that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. These criteria break down the actions related to your goal and help you avoid the trap of vagueness. So, what are the steps you can take to make sure you are setting a smart goal?
- Decide on a Specific Action
If you can’t picture the action, your goal isn’t specific enough. Though your end result may be that you are eating healthier, or showing more gratitude in your life, what exactly is the actionable objective you will set for yourself that will lead you there? Instead of just saying you’ll “eat healthier,” try making your goal to eat a set number of vegetables every day. This is a more specific action that will lead to a healthier diet.
Similarly, if you want to be more grateful in your life, your specific goal could be to express gratitude outwardly to others more. This could mean telling people face-to-face, writing notes or letters to them, or calling them on the phone to express your gratitude.
- Measure Your Progress
After you’ve nailed down a specific action to go with your goal, think about how you can make the action measurable so you know exactly what to aim for. For example, your goal could be to eat five servings of vegetables every day. Rather than just saying you’ll do something “more” or “less,” assigning a measure to it will help you know whether you’ve fulfilled that action or not.
If your specific objective is to express gratitude outwardly to your loved ones, perhaps set out to do this once a week. So, once a week, you will express your gratitude to someone you love by calling them, telling them in-person, writing to them, or texting them.
- Make Sure Your Goal is Attainable
The attainability of your goal is all about the logistics. Think about everything that is going to be required for you to attain your goal and whether your lifestyle is conducive to that. Is eating five servings of vegetables per day attainable for you, given your work schedule, proximity to a grocery store, commitments with your kids or other family members, etc.?
When it comes to expressing gratitude to someone once a week, the attainability piece may refer to whom you will express it. There may be people in your life whom you could call and express your gratitude, but it would be extremely uncomfortable. Logistically, it may be more attainable for you to choose people to whom you feel very close and with whom you are comfortable being vulnerable.
If your actionable objective is attainable, that’s great. If you realize that it isn’t attainable, think about how you can adjust the action or its measure to better suit what you can commit to.
- Set Realistic Expectations
While attainability has more to do with your personal level of commitment and restrictions, the “realistic” component addresses how generally reasonable it is for anyone to fulfill this objective. For example, eating twenty servings of vegetables every day would be unrealistic for anyone, but five servings would be much more reasonable.
Likewise, it probably would not be realistic to write a note of gratitude to someone you love every single day. However, aiming to do so once a week would be a more reasonable objective. When you’re deciding on a specific action and setting its measurability, it’s important to make it realistic.
- Give Yourself a Timeline
Every goal should have a pre-established timeline. Even if you want to eat healthy or exercise more for the rest of your life, your specific, actionable objective should have an endpoint in sight. Otherwise, it may feel too overwhelming and difficult to stick with.
For example, your action may be to eat five servings of vegetables every day for a month, if that feels realistic and attainable for you. It may be to attend a fitness class once a week for two months, or meditate every morning for three weeks. Setting a timeline allows you to pause at the end of it, reinforce to yourself that you accomplished your actionable goal, and reevaluate. Did it make you feel different? Did you notice a change? How can you adjust your goal to continue in the future?
These goal-setting steps can be applied to any objective, whether it’s to lose weight, change your diet, lower your stress, or even to be a better friend or express more gratitude in your life. Once you have established your overarching goal (your “what”) and you’ve thought about why this is a deeply important goal to you, you can break down how you will get there, and then you’ll be on your way to accomplishing it.
Starting this process can feel a bit overwhelming, which is why the Balanced Living Program at PALM Health gives you the opportunity to work closely with a team that will assist you and help you create sustainable changes to your lifestyle so you can reach and maintain a healthy weight. These changes address your diet, exercise, and stress level in order to encourage overall well-being of the mind, body, and spirit. You’ll have the chance to assign an actionable objective to your overarching goal under the guidance of an expert. This way, you can lay out the steps you need to take and accomplish what you’re setting out to do without falling back into your old habits.
PALM Health is an innovative, whole-person medical and wellness company that helps people reach and maintain well-being. Our experts in medicine and wellness empower people to transform their health, become more resilient, and feel their personal best in mind and body.