Asthma and Exercise (Part 1): Define Your Goal!
I’m super great at a few things. One of those things is meticulously setting goals, and then not meeting the plans I set for myself—this latter part is called lapse-ing behavior-change speak (okay, actually, it’s called “a lapse”, spell check doesn’t approve of the other version. One decent way to avoid not meeting your goals, is to set clear goals for yourself. I like to use a couple of different methods to map out my plan, as well as help me problem-solve when I do roam off course.
SMART is an acronym with a lot of different applications. In terms of changing behavior, in this case, a health behavior like exercise, nutrition, or even taking your meds, we’ll use the following:
Specific - Clearly outline what your goal is.
I am going to walk 20 minutes 3 days per week on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday.
Measurable - How you will measure progress towards your goal.
I am going to log the distance I walk in 20 minutes using my Fitbit or smart phone.
or I am going to colour in a square on my chart each time I walk for 20 minutes.
Achievable - Set a goal you can stick to realistically—you can always adjust it, but don’t start with something that’s so hard you’ll get discouraged (or do too many things at once! This is also a place to contemplate barriers—so that your plan doesn’t get derailed!
Every third Tuesday I have an evening meeting, so on these weeks I will walk Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.
Relevant - The reason, or motivation, you have for working towards a specific goal. This will make it more likely that you achieve what you set out to!
I want to walk so that I can walk in a 5 kilometer charity event with my friends for a cause I care about.
Time-bound - Set yourself a deadline, and re-assess your performance at this time. The the time should be enough to see progress or detect patterns, but close enough that you adjust when it’s needed.
I am going to re-evaluate my progress after 4 weeks, on that Friday.
Creating an Action Plan
Similar to the aspects of SMART goal-setting, you can better frame a goal by using an action plan—or, the 5W’s format: who, what, where, when, why.
Who can help me achieve my goal?
Find a friend, family member, partner, etc. who can keep you accountable!
I am going to ask my partner to join my walks and encourage me to keep going.
What is my goal?
Clearly define what you want to do, and how your person above can assist you (without driving you bonkers!)
I want to go for a walk 20 minutes 3 times per week (remember the days you have outlined above!). My partner can assist me by reminding me to go for my walk, coming with me if I am not wanting to go, or reminding me why my goal is important.
Where am I going to…?
Where is your plan going to take place? Where are you going to leave cues to remind yourself of your goal? (More on that in a second!)
I am going to walk around my neighborhood, and choose a slightly different route each time to make things interesting. I will leave my keys inside my shoes by the back door to ensure I remember my goal.
When am I going to schedule the actions that will get me closer to my goal?
This is where being realistic comes in! It’s better to make slow progress toward a goal, then try to go too fast and feel like you’ve been unsuccessful!
I am going to walk Monday, Thursday and Saturday in the evening, before I watch TV.
Point of Decision Prompts
Point of decision prompts may sound complex, but they’re simply things that jog your memory to remind you of the task you want to accomplish. Leaving your running shoes where you’re going to trip over them (hopefully not literally!), putting a goal tracking chart on a door you use frequently at home, or putting a post-it note on your dashboard to discourage drives that are easily walkable (“burn calories not gasoline!” is a play on a point of decision prompt used to encourage use of stairs!), are all examples of point of decision prompts. Have fun with these! The example of placing your keys inside your workout shoes is a point of decision prompt, as it reminds you of your goal both when you have to find your keys, AND when you step over the shoes that are in your way!
By taking ten minutes or so to contemplate these things and write down your intentions, you’re much more likely to be successful at your goal!
I’ve gone through just about every app out there, but have recently started using a hand-drawn chart to track my goal progress—I colour in squares based on whether I have done the activity I set out to, and have squares underneath to note how much time I spent on certain activities. So far, this system is working pretty well for me, because it’s highly customizable and visible—it’s in my Bullet Journal, a notebook I consult regularly for different things.
While clear goals will prevent some lapses, they will happen. In my next post, we’ll discuss how to rebound from an unmet goal and achieve what you want to achieve!
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