Studies show that living well is one of the most highly coveted aspirations we share. Over 85% of us start each year with a resolution that deals with personal improvement in some area of our life. 38% of us have identified health and wellness specifically as where we want to improve. Unfortunately, these resolutions are also the ones that carry the highest fail rates for success.
There are of course many opinions on why that is the case but overall, what is clear is that it’s not our desire that is failing us, it’s our follow through. When we focus on the right things it can significantly increase our odds for success in achieving our goal to live “well”. In fact, many of these principals can help you achieve any of your goals when applied consistently over time.
An effective health plan will cover what you consume, your environment, how you are going to keep your body active (agile) and setting yourself up for success with the right tools and partners.
Since I began down my own path to healthy living seven months ago I have lost over 40 pounds, I’m consistently walking over four miles daily and I have more energy now in my late 50’s than I had in my 40’s! But the most important result is the change in my personal perspective on health. It has been a gift to realize that a healthy life style is possible and that some of the damage done over many years of not making healthy choices can actually be reversed. It’s a matter of beginning now to make better choices every day that will make a difference over time. As the old Chinese proverb states: The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.
What I am sharing with you here are the ten things that have proven to be essential on my own journey in the hope that they will help you on your own. As you will see, this isn’t a typical list. There’s nothing here about achieving your ideal weight or telling you how many servings of vegetables you need. I’ll leave that kind of instruction to the experts. This list is about the framework. It’s about you and your lifestyle. Let’s take a closer look:
1) Set the right goals – What do I mean by setting the “right goals”? As with any goal, be careful what you set as your health goals and make certain that you in fact can control achieving them. We often confuse action with results and our goals should first focus on what actions we are going to take. For example, if you set your goal as “I will lose 4 pounds this week” you could be setting yourself up for disappointment. There are a myriad of reasons that may be outside your control that could impact loss in a specific time frame. You would then be disappointed which translates to discouragement. And when you get discouraged, you lose momentum. However, if you set your goals as a certain amount of steps each day, a certain number of calories each day, etc. you are in total control of whether or not you can achieve that objective. And the boost to your self esteem and confidence is also significant.
2) Recognize hype and don’t fall for it – On to “hype”: You know what this means. No- you cannot lose that many pounds or inches in that amount of time by just taking a pill. It isn’t true.
3) Choose your friends carefully – So what do your friends have to do with this? Quite a lot it seems. Did you know that in any given area of our lives that we will almost never be able to exceed the level of the average of the five people most influential in our lives? Take a look around your circle of influence. What does their healthy living philosophy look like? Is their average an acceptable ceiling for you? It may be time to get some fresh perspective in your circle. You need like-minded people in your life.
4) Hydrate! Hydrate! Hydrate! – If you don’t do anything else on the list, do this. Hydration is the best gift you can give your health. Get hydrated!
5) Know what you’re consuming – When was the last time you read the label before you put something in your mouth or even on your skin? Take responsibility for what you consume. Remember that this isn’t just about food. This is also about supplements, medications and anything else that you regularly take in.
6) Set yourself up for success with the right tools – This is also where we get to the “activity” part of your plan. Walking is by far the activity of choice for everyone. It is simple. Requires no real investment (but do get the right shoes!) and can be done anywhere. The recommended target is 10,000 steps per day on average. When I started walking, I could barely get to the end of my driveway – which isn’t very long! But within six weeks I was walking 10,000 steps a day and still maintain that now many months later. In fact, if I have a day where I’m not able to get my steps in, I can tell an immediate difference in my overall energy levels. And that helps me keep it a priority. I credit my success here to two powerful tools:
A) My Fitbit pedometer: It’s like having a personal coach that keeps you going. There are many options out there, but I’ve not found anything as effective for me as my little Fitbit that goes with me everywhere.
B) My FFF Group. This is not the same thing as what I mentioned about friends and your circle of influence. This is a support group specific to fitness. In my case, I chose Fairly Fit Female (FFF) (http://www.fairlyfitfemale.com) as my fitness community. The group creates accountability and support.
The point is that whatever you choose as your physical activity to keep you moving set yourself up for success and provide yourself with the right tools. That will make those activities count at their optimal levels. If strength training is in your plan, have the right gear, hire a fitness coach or join a fitness center that has well maintained equipment and qualified staff. Set yourself up for success.
7) Log your key activities – As we move on, it’s important to note that there is a difference between logging and tracking. Logging is just writing it down. Tracking is looking at it from a measured distance to see what is happening overall. One is about collecting data. The other is analyzing it. Both are important for different reasons. Logging creates accountability for the action.
8) Track your progress – Tracking allows for adjustment based on reality and not emotion. We can often think we are doing everything we set out to do but our logs tell a different story. Then we know that the plan isn’t failing at all. We are failing our plan. But in some cases, we are working our plan and the plan is simply not working. So we need to adjust the plan until we get to the right one for us.
9) Begin each day with an essential health activity – And finally, beginning each day with a health activity and daily renewing your personal promise are in fact the key essentials that more than anything else will drive your success. As a life coach and strategist, I teach clients to begin with the end in mind. We need life plans that empower us to live today like we want tomorrow to be. Start your day healthy. Live each day healthy. The end result is going to be a healthy life.
10) Renew your commitment to your health daily – By adopting (& adapting!) these ten essentials within your own health plan you can achieve what we all seek: A healthy life style that enables you to live life well in every way.