Setting Goals for Health: A Long-Term Plan

by on March 2nd, 2011 at 7:00 am

While many people vow to “ start the year off right” by setting resolutions, this really isn’t the best approach for long-term wellness. Whether you began 2011 with this plan or are just beginning to implement your New Year’s resolutions now (better late than never!), check out some of the most common pitfalls many people face when approaching their health goals, and some tips for lasting success!

Pitfall #1:  Doing too much too soon

Many action plans for improving health- whether they are related to exercise, dieting, etc. – have the same shortcoming in common that leads to failure: they don’t include a warm-up.  Just like running a marathon, approaching your finish line should not be a sprint from the start but rather a steady pace, with a gradual progression that begins with training.

Tips for Overcoming Pitfall #1:

  • Choose realistic, highly specific, measurable goals. Setting goals should help improve your health, not lead to stress!
  • Limit the number of goals you take on. Start with 1-2 short-term and 1-2 long-term.
  • Break down your goals to make them less intimidating by creating an outline of steps to take.  Tailor it to your needs, not anyone else’s.

Pitfall #2: Feeling easily discouraged

By setting realistic, obtainable goals, you should be on your way to success. However, don’t let a slip up make you fall off track completely. Get back to exercising (and maybe work out a little longer) after a carb-fest Friday night dinner, but don’t let yourself take the whole weekend to indulge and ruin all your previous weight loss efforts .

Tips for Overcoming Pitfall #2:

  • Keep a journal to record and track progress.
  • Reward yourself with each milestone.
  • Ask friends and family members for help and support when needed.
  • Give it time. Remember, habits are formed after 21 days!

Pitfall #3: Failing to start at all

No matter what your goal is, even a molehill can seem like a mountain when the challenge has been perpetually put off.  Determine what factors are holding you back – anxiety and fear? Lack of time?  Work on resolving those first to move forward.

The best motivation comes from within, so don’t allow yourself to fall into the “I can’t do it” mindset any longer. Instead, tackle your goals with baby steps and remind yourself that any progress is still progress, and every little bit helps to get you closer to your goal!

Tips for Overcoming Pitfall #3:

  • Give yourself a timeline to help deter excuses.
  • Embrace change, even if that means your plan is altered.

4 Responses to “Setting Goals for Health: A Long-Term Plan”

  1. Kendall

    Mar 2nd, 2011

    This is a great takeaway from this post: Embrace change, even if that means your plan is altered. There have been many times that I’ve had to detour from my “plan” and sometimes just give up completely. For instance, exercise – there have been times I’ve been too sore/too tired/too busy/already too far off track… This is a great reminder that every little effort adds up!

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  3. RevDella

    Mar 3rd, 2011

    I think you have provided some important ideas for maintaining health goals. I teach goal setting workshops and some other things I encourage people to do are -

    Make it easy to succeed. Success builds upon success. If they aren’t doing any exercise then they can walk for 10 minutes three times per week. Once they have done that for a while, they can move up to 15 minutes three times per week. They continue to add onto their exercise routine in small increments so they can feel success at every level.

    Get rid of the all or nothing attitude. If someone has planned to work out for 1 hour but only has 20 minutes to do a workout, it is easy to say “Forget it!” But twenty minutes of exercise is better than none. I encourage people to set goals, but to be flexible with them when life shows up.

    Even though these ideas are geared to health, they can also be applied to any other goal a person might have.

  4. Ashley

    Mar 7th, 2011

    Thanks RevDella! I love your example of incremental exercise. You are so right about losing the “all or nothing” attitude :)

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