When we set a goal, whether it be losing weight, getting out of debt, building a business, or getting a degree, accomplishing that goal comes down to the choices that we make. That may sound obvious but there is more to it than “Just Do It”
That may also sound very difficult for anyone who has struggled sticking with a project or goal (haven’t we all at some point) but it becomes simpler when we break it down.
So here is an exercise on making the choices that are necessary to achieve our goals.
First, we have to shift our focus from fixing a problem to achieving our desired outcome. If we are focused on fixing a problem such as poor health or unmanageable debt then once we make a little progress, the tension that pulled us toward our goal lessens and we lose motivation and drive. Imagine a rubber band being stretched between our current reality and our desired outcome. When the distance is great, there is a lot of tension and it doesn’t take much effort to move in the right direction. Once we move even a little, however, the tension is less and it takes more effort to continue moving toward our goal.
In his book, The Habits of Health, Dr. Wayne Scott Anderson describes three different kinds of choices; Fundamental choices, Primary choices and Secondary choices.
Our desired outcome is our fundamental choice. It becomes something that defines us. It is what we are willing to fight for. Since this a blog about health, let’s use optimal health as our example. Optimal health looks different for everyone. What does it look like for you? Maybe running a marathon or completing a triathlon or maybe being able to get down on the floor and play with your children or grandchildren. It is important to have a very clear picture of what you are working toward so here is the first step in our exercise:
Picture in your mind what optimal health looks like for you.
What do you look like? [weight, size, physique, muscle tone, BMI (body mass index)]
How do you feel? [energy level, exercise tolerance, stress level, confidence, enjoyment, fulfillment, peace, pain level]
What can you do? [ time for family, pleasure and hobbies, fitness, activities you enjoy, work]
Answer each of these questions with a statement and write them down. For example, “I wear a size ___.” “I can go up and down the stairs without knee pain.” “I am confident wearing a swimsuit in public.”
I will share with you that in my experience after losing 100 lbs., the reality that was the result of continually reaching for optimal health has exceeded my imagination. The life I have now is far better than what I had initially dreamed!
Now that we have our fundamental choice of creating optimal health we can break that down into our primary choices. Primary choices are the ones that will lead us to our fundamental choice. Using our example of optimal health, these would include things like:
healthy eating (read here for more on that)
reaching a healthy weight
leading an active lifestyle
getting adequate and quality sleep (see my post about sleep for more)
gaining financial peace (you guessed it, read more here)
building a support system
Step 2 in our exercise is to write these out. Make them specific and measurable. What will you choose to create optimal health in your life?
Lastly, we take each primary choice and list our secondary choices. These are the everyday choices that we make that will get us where we want to be. These are the actions that we will take to make that picture we painted a reality. They are not always fun and we wouldn’t necessarily choose to do them if they didn’t support our higher goals. Let’s say you decided to become a world-class pianist. What would you do? You’d practice every day, of course! Even if you didn’t feel like it. Creating health is no different. We have to practice the activities that will lead to our success, every day. Eventually, they will be habits and won’t take so much effort and focus. They will come naturally most of the time.
Let’s take a couple primary choices and break them down.
Primary choice: healthy eating
I will eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking (this gets my metabolism going)
I will eat low glycemic, low fat, properly portioned meals
I will fuel my body regularly throughout the day to prevent blood sugar spikes.
I will pack my lunch instead of eating fast food
Primary choice: active lifestyle
I will walk every day on my lunch break
I will look for opportunities to increase my activity such as parking in the farthest parking spot and taking the stairs
You get the idea. Finish this exercise by writing secondary choices for all of your primary choices.
I hope this exercise helps you achieve whatever it is you want, who you want to become and where you want to go in life.
Give it a try and let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.