Psychological tools for wellness / Category / Emile Du Toit / December 6th 2015
Are you self-actualizing? Making the most of every fading minute? Truly moving forward in your life? Or do your bright ideas on happiness and total health somehow never actually translate into a practical health care plan? If you seem stuck in your life, don’t feel you are living the dream, or are great at initially pursuing your goals only to somehow always trip up somewhere along the path, then this health article is for you. Make sure that you understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle program and living a life congruent with who you truly are. Then turn our attention to this particular article on how to construct your own unique health care plan. We at Tools for Health and Wellness will hold your hand a guide you through a practical example – together with a strategic metaphor dangling from dizzy heights – of how best to construct goals over suitable time frames and then structure in mini-goals and simple task lists to allow you to achieve lasting health and wellness.
Firstly I want to mention that this article constructing a health care plan is in many ways the third of a trilogy. You should really start with gaining an understanding of total health, move on to understanding what is meant by a healthy lifestyle program and then read this third part of the puzzle on the creation of a health care program.
This article on creating a health care plan will basically be a quantification of a healthy lifestyle program. Once we have considered that we are a one person system with many different components that all need to be running effectively for us to be healthy and happy, it then falls to us to consider what these various components are.
Part of my job entails sitting with clients and working through their goals with them. Once we have discussed who they are (their sense of identity), how happy they are with their expression of who they are (a self-esteem component) and which path they want to create for themselves going forward, it is then time to create steps to help them navigate this path.
Ostensibly, you need to begin by mapping out the various functional areas in your life, plus any others that are important to you but that you have perhaps lacked the skills, motivation or courage to include so far. These multifarious goals obviously share certain similar core areas, though there will be many differences as well. Some of these core areas for health and wellness can be found in the article on total health, and are also alluded to in the article on constructing a healthy lifestyle program.
Mapping out each one of your goals is a little like planning and then building a suspension bridge across a ravine. Odds are that without thorough planning you will never get there! The path across will have many challenges and unpredictable moments, but you need a way of grounding yourself in your objective, and sticking to the plan. My advice is to open your excel spreadsheet that you created at the end of the healthy lifestyle program, and select just one of your goals to work through during or after reading this article:
a. Firstly, take a long, hard look at the status quo in this particular functional area. This serves as your first vertical tower that your bridge will hang from.
b. Secondly, consider what time frame you wish to use for the other end of the bridge. Sometimes a particular time frame presents itself, for example a specific work project that is going to take around 28 months to complete. At other times you just picture a point in time and run with it. I tend to use a 5 year time frame as my longest, and even then the goals at that end are often more diffuse for at least part of the journey. Some people just cannot even picture themselves 2 years ahead, and in this case a 5 year time frame would be entirely pointless. Note that we are now going to be working backwards from the other end of the bridge. So this longest time frame becomes your fourth vertical tower at the extreme other end of the ravine that your bridge is firmly anchored to!
c. After this, I recommend finding a time frame somewhere between 30 and 50% of the distance across the bridge from today towards your long term goal and using this as your third tower for your bridge. By the time you get here you will have begun to fill in the suspension cables (i.e. the more detailed mini-goals) that the far end of your bridge will be suspended from. I generally use a 2 year marker.
d. As your second vertical tower for your bridge, and the last that you will be penciling in for now, you might want to consider a point between around 3 and 6 months from today. Due to my long-ish time frames I tend to use a 6 month anchor point.%u200B
Make sure that on your excel spreadsheet each vertical tower has its own row or column. As mentioned mine tend to consist of the status quo, 6 months from now, 2 years from now and my 5 year plan.
Now that you have put down your 4 vertical towers for your suspension bridge - and mortified a lot of structural engineers I suspect – you are ready to build the actual bridge.
Now suspension bridges as you know are held up by, and hang below the main vertical towers as well as the many vertical cables that support them. These vertical cables equate to the mini-goals that you will be setting for yourself. Initially you will have many more cables towards the beginning of your bridge than the end. It is always easier to set precise goals that are not too distant, as the distant goals are often dependent on others, and permutations and complications can be difficult to foresee. At this point it might be useful to merely focus on structuring your tasks to achieve mini-goals within the first 3 or 6 months (i.e. running cables up to the first vertical tower, that your bridge can hang from).
Let us look at a brief example of this. Let’s say that one of my defined functional areas is integrated fitness, and I look ahead and decide that two and a half years from now I want to complete the iron man (my fourth vertical pillar). In this case I decide that the hardest part of the iron man for me personally will be the marathon, as I have just had a knee operation and the cartilage is still re-growing (this status quo forms part of my first vertical pillar). The easiest part will be the cycling as part of my knee rehabilitation involves cycling anyway, and besides this I have done a fair bit of fitness cycling in the past. The swimming falls somewhere in between. In this case I decide that I am going to particularly base my vertical pillars (short, medium and long term goals) around the running. I decide it will take me a year to manage to comfortably run a half marathon, based on the leisure time I have available and the necessary time to regrow the cartilage and rebuild my knee muscles in a safe manner. So this becomes my third vertical pillar. My second pillar is going to be the amount of time that I feel is reasonable to safely build up my knee and run 10km – 6 months. For convenience sake I will use the same markers for swimming and cycling, and I can safely do this as I know I will be able to accomplish these distances much easier than the running.
There may be a few important vertical cables that I can also lay down quite far out along the bridge span. I may have a particular open water swimming event that I can already ear mark for 17 months from now. In order to achieve this distance on open water I might also set myself the goal that by 14 months I already want to be able to achieve this distance in a swimming pool.
Mostly though, I would now turn my attention to structuring my short term tasks to achieve mini-goals. Importantly, I like to build in rewards for myself to help me motivate towards the more tricky goals. Since I clearly won’t be healed enough to complete any running or swimming in the next month, I shall focus on a cycling plan here. I am annoyed by the fact that the knee is not yet flexible enough for me to walk down stairs leading with either leg. So I set this as a mini-goal. In order to get here I need to continue with my eccentric training on a bike, and dedicate time to not only my quads, but also start giving my hamstrings a workout. I work out how many sessions I am likely to need of each exercise in order to (hopefully) negotiate my way down stairs in a more normal demeanor. I free up the time from work and book the slots in my diary. These become tasks on my task list that I need to complete and tick off. I also need to push myself to not get lazy and keep putting in maximum effort in the training sessions, and so I set quantifiable goals in terms of the number of kilowatts that I want to be able to resist in each session. This may need to be a more flexible goal, as I cannot predict exactly how my body will respond.
So now I have a month long task list to complete, and in this case the first month happens to be focused solely on the cycling. I may have penciled in my second goal – to start walking in the mountain on broken terrain, to begin as soon as I am comfortable negotiating the stairs! Note how I keep one eye on my eventual goal, but cannot afford to focus too much on it at the moment. Completing an iron man is a long way off from my recent knee surgery, and so I rather focus most of my efforts on creating shorter term goals with rewards attached to them. I might choose to see walking on the mountain as its own motivation. However, if I am taking strain finding time or energy for the cycling sessions then a month might seem a long way away! In this case I might set myself small, tangible rewards for the completion of every week, or even every session. When the gap between the completion of mini-goals is quite large then we need to consider creative ways of maintaining motivation.
Each and every functional area of your life should have its own suspension bridge from where you are to where you want to be! Aside from helping you achieve these goals it will also fill you with drive and purpose. Admittedly this does not mean that you should not sometimes prioritize one or more functional areas at certain times. Trying to complete too many goals in too many areas all at once is a certain way to set up failure. Keep it manageable and realistic!
We want to empower our readers to be able to take responsibility for their health and wellness and to construct their own health care plan from their own healthy lifestyle program. These articles are designed to help you to take responsibility for your lives and to achieve your goals and become all that you want to be.
With this in mind we have a special surprise for you! We are developing a top secret App, through our associated company Superior Life Applications. We will release more news about this in the future. Keep checking back as there will also be limited-time promotional offers available!
Like what you read? Why not share it with your friends