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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back on Track to Eden: Goal Setting 1-2-3

For Your Health:
Goal-Setting 1-2-3
If you didn't succeed with your 2011 resolution, then you need to do something different to succeed with 2012's. Try these three steps (and four bonus tips!) to set and meet your New Year's goal.

If you're trying to lose weight, you probably already have a good idea of where you want to be: back in your old jeans with the 34" waist, or in your favorite size-6 dress, for instance. But let's hold off on that long-term goal to start...

1. Create an Action Plan

Before you get too attached to a goal weight and a target date, set an Action Plan. That is, decide what you will realistically do to achieve your goal. How often will you exercise? What dietary changes will you make?

An Action Plan takes the guesswork out of your resolution. It doesn't just answer 'what' and 'when' like a goal does; an Action Plan tells you 'how.' It also prevents you from 'resolving' to lose too much weight, too soon, which will only discourage you.

Better still, an Action Plan defines success by your efforts every day: if you follow your plan (get to the gym and have fresh fruit for dessert, for example) you've succeeded! By contrast, even a realistic long-term goal may leave you waiting for months before you can say "I did it!"

To help you stick to your Action Plan, write it down; putting it in black and white helps steel your resolve. Then notify your support network - your friends, family, and anyone you can count on for positive reinforcement.

2. Set a Long-term Goal

Give your Action Plan a couple of weeks. Once you know how effective it is - how much progress you make when you follow it - you can then figure out how long it will really take to reach your final goal. In other words, you can now set a fact-based Long-term Goal.

To set that Long-term Goal, you can either proceed with - or revise - your Action Plan. For example, if your final goal is to lose 20 pounds, and your Action Plan shed one pound a week, then you can either:

Set a Long-term Goal to stay the course for 20 weeks total, or...
Revise your Action Plan for more activity and fewer calories to get their sooner.
3. Set your 1st Short-term Goal

While you work toward achieving your Long-term Goal, you should set Short-Term Goals to keep you excited along the way.

If your Long-term Goal will take six months to achieve, then you might plan a series of one-month goals (i.e. double what your Action Plan tells you that you can achieve in two weeks).

Plus 4 Tips to Keep You on Track

▪ Be patient with yourself. It may take longer than expected, and it will certainly take longer than you'd like. If you didn't gain it overnight, then don't expect to lose it overnight either.

Also, consider how long you waited to start. If you're like most people, you procrastinated for longer than the resolution itself will take to achieve! If you've already proven that you can be patient with getting nowhere, then being patient with progress should be easy.

▪ Be forgiving if you have a few setbacks. Most of us do. It's your ability to get back in the saddle that will make the difference!

▪ Remind yourself why you're doing this. You might put an appropriate photo or Post-It note where you'll see it regularly:

Want to fit your old jeans? Then choose a picture of yourself from when you could; or hang the jeans near your refrigerator!
Trying to dodge a family history of heart disease? Then perhaps pick a photo of a loved one who suffered from it.
Tired of getting winded climbing the stairs? Then post words of encouragement at the top and bottom of those stairs.
▪ Reward yourself for each Short-term Goal that you achieve. Don't reward with anything that will slow your progress. (Hopefully, your Action Plan allows a little leeway for you to enjoy some of your favorite foods, though less often and in smaller quantities).

You could buy yourself something, but instead, reward with an experience. Research into happiness tells us that money spent on an event brings more satisfaction than money spent on a thing. So take a friend out to dinner, go dancing, get a massage, or do whatever you find fun and don't do often enough.

Of course, getting and staying fit is its own reward. It helps you feel better, fills you with pride, and signals your body to release mood-boosting hormones for an all-natural 'high.' We all want to enjoy the finer things in life; just remember that physical activity is one of them.