A Different Type of Goal

Last updated: June 2018

This year I didn’t set New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve never found them to be particularly successful in the past. I set big lofty goals, get started on achieving them, then something gets in the way. And as my IBS has become touchier and harder to manage over the years, it can cause a goal to be derailed in no time. So this year I’ve taken a different approach.

Not a goal, but a behavior change

While I haven’t set a health or fitness goal, I still want to be focused on my health. I know that being physically and mentally strong helps my IBS immensely. So it’s important that I continually attend to my health. That means doing regular activities that strengthen my body and mind.

So what I decided to do this year was a little different. Instead of a goal that I wanted to achieve by a certain date, I defined a new behavior that I wanted to create. One which would become as normal and natural as any regular task in my life.

This is how I defined that new behavior…

“Check in with my physical, mental, emotional and social health every week and adjust my personal and work activities as needed to stabilize and sustain my health.”

So what does that actually mean?

  1. Every week I need to set time aside – usually on a Sunday – to reflect on where my health is at. By making this a weekly task, my health will always remain a major focus and so shouldn’t need major action to fix.
  2. Health needs to be considered on multiple levels – physical, mental, emotional, and social. It’s easy to focus on the physical side of health, but mental wellness, emotional stability and social interactions also affect health. So they need to be considered too.
  3. The desire to ‘stabilize and sustain my health’ has two parts. Stabilizing is about settling down unexpected IBS flare ups or other health issues. Sustaining requires actively choosing things that will keep me as healthy as possible.
  4. Understanding that if any part of my health isn’t in a desirable state, it can only be fixed by making adjustments. I can't keep doing the same things. So I need to be prepared to change my personal and/or work commitments to restore stability.

The advantage of focusing on behaviors

What I like about this approach is that if one week gets out of control, adjustments can be made in the next week to restore stability. This won’t stop problems from occurring, but it should prevent them from spiraling out of control.

I also like that I’m not locked into any one health strategy. For instance, if I set a goal to walk every single day or to do 3 yoga classes per week, I’d feel obliged to do it. And if I didn’t do it exactly, I’d feel like I was failing. But with this alternate way, even if I’d been in a routine of walking every morning, if things suddenly change, I can change too. If I wanted to, I could switch to doing afternoon yoga, without any feeling of failure. Or if I knew I needed a day off, I could take it without feeling guilty.

When it comes to health, there should never be any guilt. You just need to do your best and keep working towards the way that you work optimally. And that will make your IBS more stable too.

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