Each year many of us start the New Year with a list of things we are going to do better or differently from last year. Many of the items on the list are health-related. And, a number of us, me included, will fall short of our declared intentions. So, how can things be different this year? When December 2014 rolls around (and the years seem to pass more quickly for me each year, the older I get), how can we look back with a sense of accomplishment for those things we set as goals for 2014? I hope these ideas are helpful to you.
- Do not set too many goals. Sometimes our list of things we are going to do differently takes up an entire page – it can be 20 or 30 items long. Keep the list small – no more than 2-5 items that is plenty for one year.
- Understand that change is work and that improvement does not follow a straight line upward. Shifting habits and ingrained ways of doing things takes time, attention, effort, and practice. Expect that you will have some setbacks, and that you can recover from those and move forward. Accept your capacity for failure – and commit to learn from those setbacks.
- Make incremental changes and build on small successes. Sometimes we set our goals too high, and they need to be broken down into smaller pieces. The ultimate goal remains the same, but having some intermediate goals along the way helps to identify and celebrate progress.
- Enlist the help of others. By our very nature we are social creatures. Teaming up with those who care about us or who may share the same goals can help along the way. This past year I had a goal of doing a longer bike ride but I knew I had failed in my efforts the year before. So, I teamed up with a friend in my office to help keep me focused and to share the same goal. Together we made the ride in August – and I was proud of the accomplishment.
I wish you the best in your efforts, particularly as they relate to better health. Being healthy and staying healthy requires each of us to be active participants. Many of the health issues we face today can be addressed through better choices and some changes to current habits. It is not easy work – yet it is important work – for each of us, and for those we love and who love us.