You know what to do but you just can’t seem to do it. Sound familiar? There’s actually a name for it: the health behavior gap. It’s what prevents us from slathering on sunscreen (even though we know we should), or causes us to skip the dental floss or reach for candy rather than fruit. I used to teach at a university and one of the exercises I did with my students was to write as many health-related “should dos” as they could shout out on the chalk board – and boy are there a lot (get 8 hours of sleep, drink 8 cups of water, do cardio, strength training AND flexibility training, eat only whole grains, not skip meals, always wear a seat belt…..on and on and on).
After creating the extensive list I’d ask, “OK how many of you do every single one of these things 100% of the time?” Of course, nobody could raise their hand, including me. Let’s face it, it’s pretty overwhelming. That’s why one of the best strategies for doing more better (or more consistently) is to set a few very specific, measurable and attainable goals. For example rather than saying, “I’m going to eat better” the goal might be, “I’m going to eat 1 cup of fruit at breakfast and 1 cup of vegetables at each lunch and dinner.” Or instead of saying, “I’m going to cut back on sweets” the goal may be, “I’m going to limit myself to one sweet splurge each day of no more than 200 calories.”
The idea is to set a realistic goal that allows you to track your progress. When you add specifics, it tends to feel much less overwhelming and allow you to succeed and see real results, which can boost your confidence and lead to adding another goal down the road, then another.
One of my current goals is to eat at least two different types of fruit each day (sometimes I tend to get in a rut and eat the same one over and over, which limits the variety of nutrients I give my body).
One of my favorite sayings is, “I am continually a work in progress.” We all have things we can improve, but selecting just a few at a time and working on them in a strategic way can make all the difference between moving forward and staying stuck!
What’s your take on this topic? What’s your specific, measureable goal (e.g. I want to do X, X amount, X often)? Please share your thoughts!