What’s Your Plan?

With the New Year just around the corner, for many, thoughts turn to how we want next year to be different.
Want to improve your health but not sure where to start? Well, as Stephen Covey would say, “Start with the end in mind”,* with our 6 steps for developing a workable plan to achieve your health goals.
The secret to a sustainable healthy lifestyle is finding a plan that works for you, long term, not just for a few months! We are all unique individuals so it makes sense that our health strategy is unique to us. So here are some tips to guide you on developing your new health strategy.Resolutions
Step 1 – What and Why?
This is perhaps the most important step of all. You need to work out your “What” and “Why”. “Start with the end in mind”* and work out “What” being healthier means to you. Is it being able to fit into your favourite clothes again or being able to run or walk a few kilometres? Is it being more active and eating better? Is it lowering your risk of illness and disease, being a role model for your children or just being able to keep up with them? Or is it just having the energy and physical capacity to do all that you want to do?
Next, find your “Why?” Why do you want to improve your health? Why will you get out of a cosy bed rather than roll over for a few minutes of extra sleep? Why will you choose a healthier option for lunch or skip that afternoon chocolate bar? Why will you choose being physically active over crashing on the couch in the evening? Why will you make your new health strategy a priority?
It sounds rather simple but without a compelling reason to create a healthy lifestyle our minds can get very creative at finding reasons to “just head home and worry about it tomorrow”.
If you find this step challenging ask yourself, where will I be in 5 or 10 years if I do nothing different? How will my life improve when I am healthier and more active? What other activities can I enjoy when I am healthier and more active?
Step 2 – Get Specific
Now is the time to get specific and write down what you want to achieve with your health. Write a sentence, or two, which defines what being healthy means to you and the date when you want to be living this healthier lifestyle. For example “By 1st April 2016 I will have dropped 10kg, my blood pressure will be within a normal range and I will be able to play with my children for 30 minutes without getting puffed.”
Make it specific and measurable. After all, you need to know when you get there so you can ……. Celebrate!
At this point, it’s also important to determine how you will celebrate your achievement. It needs to be big enough to help motivate you when you feel like rolling over and hitting the snooze button or heading for the couch. If you know that your healthy lifestyle will take longer than 3 months then plan in some smaller celebrations along the way to keep you motivated.
Step 3 – Review
Now that you know where you want to be let’s look at what you’ve done in the past to give you an insight into what works well for you and what doesn’t. Consider previous occasions that you have worked on your health. What did you do? Was it successful? If it was, could you implement that strategy again? Could you improve on the strategy even more? If it wasn’t successful, what caused you to slip up? What could you change this time around or put in place so that you are successful this time? The trick is to identify any roadblocks or speed humps up-front and come up with a plan to overcome them before they arrive. When they do, simply implement your action plan.
If this is the first time you’ve looked at improving your health, if you haven’t been successful in achieving your health goals to date, consider a goal from another area of your life or from your work where you were successful and look at the contributing factors of your success. Can you implement these same success factors into your new health strategy?
Step 4 – Devise the Plan Step by Step
This step is about breaking your health strategy into smaller, more manageable chunks – working out the individual
steps you need to take to achieve your healthy lifestyle.
For example:
• Diet – What do I need to do to improve my current eating plan? Who can help me? Do I achieve change more effectively when I go for an all-in approach or just change one thing each week to make sure it’s a lasting change?
• Activity – What do I need to start doing (and stop doing)? Do I need a friend, a group or a coach to keep me motivated? Do I need new running shoes or clothes to workout in?
• Do some research – Try different activities to find what works best for you both physically and with the time you have available. Talk to people who are doing the activities you would like to do. Ask them how they got started and how they stay motivated. Find a role model, someone who can assist and support you and ask them what they do to be healthy – then copy them!
• Work out a plan of action – week by week as a guide to keep you on track.
Apple and weights
Step 5 – Monitor and Adjust
Now that you have your plan, the key to keeping on track and staying motivated is to monitor your plan and adjust it if necessary.
Review your plan, progress and results each week:
• Are you on track? If not, what’s getting in the way? What do you need to do differently?
• Do you need to change anything based on your results so far?
 Step 6 – Celebrate
Apart from the great feelings associated with being healthier, make sure you plan how you will celebrate your success. Make it something meaningful and big enough that it will inspire you when the going gets tough.
Now that you have your action plan, remember not to beat yourself up if you find yourself “falling off the wagon” every now and then. Simply get up, brush yourself off and get back on the wagon. Acknowledge yourself for being human and aim to be consistent 80% of the time so that your changes are sustainable in the long term.
* Stephen R. Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

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