Health Coaching: Goal Setting and Healthy Habits for the New Year

by Marcy Simpson, LCSW

Would you be surprised to know that according to an online blog*, the top five most popular New Year resolutions for 2019 included: “exercise to get in shape”, “diet to lose weight” and “eat healthier in general?” Do any of these happen to sound familiar to you? Do you dread even thinking about making your list because of feeling defeated or discouraged from past attempts? Perhaps one of these behavior changes has been something you have considered (again) as the old year winds down and you contemplate making a fresh start. Taking a different approach to goal setting can be helpful in following through on healthy habits moving forward into 2020. Here’s a simple formula for setting goals to maximize your chances of success in order to maintain healthy habits any day of the year.

Define the goal: Goal setting is a process which involves asking yourself questions to decide exactly what you want to do. Using the first resolution listed above as an example, what exactly does “exercise to get in shape” mean to you? Why are you choosing this specific change? What do you hope to achieve? What type of exercise will produce the desired results, after you have determined what “in shape” will look like?

Questions like these will get you to thinking about the “why” of considering a change so that you can have information for the next step.

Action plan: Developing an action plan is crucial because it involves writing things down. Your plan doesn’t have to be fancy; it can be as simple as reminders on your calendar or phone. However, whatever you decide needs to be specific, measurable, and realistic. For example, walk on treadmill twice/week for 20-30 minutes for a month. There is a Chinese proverb that states; “All things are difficult before they are easy.” Remember that any change involves a learning curve and then time to establish the new, healthier habit. Having a written plan helps you to allow for everyday life occurrences that can interfere with your routine and often derail your best intentions.

Share your plan: This is a crucial step that is often overlooked. Accountability is key in making positive behavior changes. Find someone who is supportive regarding your goals/plans for establishing and maintaining healthy habits. If not a friend or family member, seek out someone in the exercise or weight loss class you join and tell them about your plan. Your support system is vital in keeping you honest with the necessary steps to achieve your stated goals.

Evaluate: How will you know when you’ve reached your goals? What happens if you decide that group classes are not your thing and you would prefer a more solitary form of exercise? Decide on a few set-points to measure progress towards your goals and then adjust when needed. Be kind to yourself. You can only start where you’re at when it comes to making changes. Remember that the desired result is for healthy habits that promote a sense of well-being, confidence, and satisfaction knowing that you’ve attained the results you have set for yourself. Good luck!

*https://vitagene.com/blog/most-popular-2019-new-years-resolution/

Marcy Simpson, LCSW, is a Health Coach at Pinehurst Medical Clinic in Pinehurst and Sanford. She can be reached at 910-235-3347 or msimpson@pinehurstmedical.com.