Don't underestimate the power of putting your goals on paper!
Are you a planner? Most of us are goal-oriented in our work lives, we set clearly-defined project goals and deliverables and we hold ourselves accountable to achieve our objectives within a particular time period. Unfortunately, however, many of us neglect to bring that same level of goal-oriented-discipline into our personal lives. We don't create clear goals and objectives related to our health and well being, and our bodies pay the price.
There is a well-known study conducted by Harvard in the 1970’s that asked graduate students whether they had set clear, written goals for their future and what plans had been made to accomplish them. Interviewed ten years later, the graduates that had written goals were earning on average TEN times as much as the others who had goals but had not written them down.
Writing down your personal health and wellness goals and the referring to these throughout the year will help you stay on track and build a foundation for a healthy future. If you want to take charge of your health and well being, here’s an outline of some of the areas to consider in creating your wellness plan.
#1: Create goals related to your physical health:
Statistically, most of us will die of a preventable disease. 9 in 10 Canadians have at least one lifestyle risk factor for heart disease, and many don't even know they are at risk. Before you create goals related to your physical health, it's important to assess the current state of your health. Are you healthy? What are your risk factors for certain chronic diseases? What preventive measures should you be taking right now? If you don't know the answers to these questions, consider booking a preventive health assessment or speaking with a doctor who specializes in preventive medicine.
When considering physical health goals, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you get annual physical check-ups and consult a physician at the earliest sign of something being wrong?
- How often do you exercise?
- Do you drink alcohol? If so, are you drinking too much?
- Do you smoke? Do you have plan to quit?
- Are you at a healthy weight? Have you consulted a dietitian for support?
- How much sleep do you get a night?
- Review your current diet - are you getting the nutrients you need?
#2: Create goals to support emotional well being:
Chronic stress is implicated in nearly every major chronic health condition from heart disease to cancer to dementia. Create a personal wellness plan that addresses maintaining or improving your emotional health. Ask yourself questions such as:
- How would you describe your level of stress?
- How well do you cope with the stress? Have you consulted a professional for support and guidance?
- What do you do to cope with stress? If you find yourself trying to deal with stress with alcohol or other unhealthy behaviors, it may be helpful to talk to a professional.
- Are you happy? Try the 4 week happiness challenge.
#3: Create goals surrounding social connectedness:
Experts conclude that the more socially connected you are in a positive way - be it with family, friends, colleagues or in your love life, the more supported and emotionally balanced you feel, and the better you do, health wise, over time. Being socially connected doesn't necessarily mean having a calendar packed with parties or events to attend, it means feeling genuinely connected to others on an emotional level. Ask yourself the following questions, and include social connectedness in your personal wellness plan.
- Do you spend time with friends and family? Do you enjoy the time you spend?
- Do you seek out new friendships?
- Do you feel connected with your partner, family members, colleagues, and friends?
- What positive changes can you make in order to facilitate more meaningful relationships with others in your life, or to spend more time with the people you love?
#4: Create goals focused around brain health:
Research has demonstrated that brain function can continue to be strengthened throughout our lifespan (neurogenesis and neuroplasticity) and that, contrary to previous beliefs, adults retain the ability to improve cognitive ability through mid and late life. The more frequent and complex your cognitive activity the less likely you are to develop Alzheimer’s disease when you age.
- How complex is the work you do in your daily life/work life?
- Are you stimulated by the work/level of intellectual activity or are you bored?
- How often do you use critical and analytical thinking?
- Here are things you can do to boost brain health.
#5: Create goals around work-life balance:
People who report feeling good about their level of work-life balance tend to experience less stress and better emotional health. Create clear goals surrounding work life balance such as using your lunch hour to do something you enjoy, or scaling back hours to allow for a better balance. Ask yourself these questions and create a clear and actionable plan to make work-life balance a priority.
- How well do you balance work and leisure time? Need strategies? Try these 7 tips.
- Do you feel overly stressed about your job?
- How stimulated are you by your work? Does it satisfy you? Could you be more challenged?
- Do you enjoy spending time with the people you work with?
- Do you feel appreciated?
- Would you like to change jobs or careers?
Assessing the various aspects of your health and lifestyle is a wonderful first step in achieving a healthier future and living your best life. Review each section and write down what you want to accomplish, your goals and aspirations. Applaud yourself in those areas that are stellar, where you already have made good choices and lifestyle habits. Write down the steps you will take to accomplish your new goals. Review them every quarter and once a year. Remember, writing down your goals will increase your chances of attaining them. There is only upside to this.
If this is overwhelming to you (eg. too much work, too many issues to deal with) you have already learned something important. Time to ask for coaching and guidance, some expert support and involvement, some strategies to help you manage the storms and get back on track. Here are additional strategies to put your health first.