Four Simple Steps Add Up to Huge Rewards
Behavior changes are the most important thing to consider when you’re attempting to live a healthier lifestyle. It’s that simple.
Implementing small behavior changes can set you up for success; your health goals are reachable, and while it may sound easy, there’s the hardest part: getting started.
I recommend a little homework before you take that first step. It can really help to take “small bites” as you get those changes rolling, and here are a few places to begin:
Step 1: Pick one area in your life on which to focus
Don’t try to make multiple changes at once. When you do that, it’s really easy to overwhelm yourself, and discouragement sets in. Simplify your plan, so instead of saying, “I want to lose 30 pounds, quit smoking and run a 5K in six months,” you instead decide what’s most important to you right now. Starting by saying “I want to lose 30 pounds” is simpler.
Step 2: Set up one or two long-term goals
When we start simply and then build in some long-term goals, it can help you paint a picture of the end results as well as set up milestones to gauge progress. Those can be as simple as time increments, or you might use other milestones.
Make sure your long-term goals are S.M.A.R.T goals, using the easy-to-remember key words:
- S = Specific: What exactly do you want to achieve?
- M = Measurable: How will you measure progress?
- A = Attainable: Is what you want possible under current circumstances?
- R = Realistic: How confident are you that you can reach your goal?
- T = Timely: How long will you give yourself to reach your goal?
You may have a long-term S.M.A.R.T Goal such as “I will lose 30 pounds by Jan. 1,” for example. Now we move on to our third step.
Step 3: Develop a few short-term goals
Setting up your short-term goals is a great way to help you make progress toward the longer-term ones. These can follow a weekly or bi-weekly timeframe and will serve as the first steps as you begin the process of behavior change. One step at a time – you can do this!
Make sure short term goals are also S.M.A.R.T. such as building in some specific targets, especially during those first weeks. Maybe you’ll say “I will walk at a brisk pace for 30 minutes Monday, Wednesday and Friday,” and then add that “I will bring a healthy lunch to eat at work Tuesday and Thursday.”
Notice how those are not too intimidating; that is best. You are going to build a better lifestyle, but it all starts with a few steps. You got this, because you’re using good methods.
Step 4: Create an environment for success
Will you be successful if the pantry is full of junk food? Probably not, so avoid temptation by not having bad choices easily accessible. If your goal is weight loss, take the plunge and clean out the refrigerator. Discard or donate the unhealthy foods.
Another step is to start bringing exercise clothes to work when planning a trip to the gym at the end of the day, and remember to surround your effort with a good support system. You can ask friends/family to be a walking buddies and you can interact with co-workers to promote healthier changes at work. You’ll probably find some takers.
Accountability and knowing others want you to succeed create good motivators during tough times. If you keep a journal or log, you can track regular habits and review old ones. It can really be an eye-opener and help you to “show yourself” areas where you may need to implement changes.
There are extra steps you also can take, including focusing on an inventory of things that will keep you motivated, such as rewards and treats (just not the bad food kind.) If you’re not seeing results, you may need to revisit and revise your goals, or seek an expert for some help.
Restarting is a great way to keep going! That’s the most important part – continuing your journey toward a healthier life. One step at a time is the best way to go!