Happy 2017 everyone!
The turn of the year is historically and symbolically considered a time of reflection and new goal setting. An opportunity to get your life back in order--to start that exercise program, eat better, sleep more, stop smoking, etc. I am all for new year resolutions, but let’s take a serious look at the numbers. 48% of Americans make resolutions each January 1st, yet only 8% ever see them through. So what happened to the other 40%, and more importantly, if you made resolutions, how did you avoid dropping out?
As a new business owner, I (Blake) have spent the better part of 2016 deeply immersed in the world of personal and business finance, and it has given me many insights into how resources are spent and how they mature. I thought it would be an interesting topic to extend some of the more useful investing ideas towards how we can better invest in our health. Here goes nothing!
Resolutions are forceless if they aren’t backed up by goals and, more specifically, if they don’t follow the S.M.A.R.T. principle of effective goal setting. That means they must be Specific (I want to lose 30 pounds by July 1st, not I want to lose weight), Measurable (something you can put a number on, not an unquantifiable feeling), Achievable (set realistic goals that are just at the edge of your imagination but not so far beyond that you will be disappointed--when in doubt undershoot a little bit rather than overshoot because you can always make a new goal once you have achieved the old one), Relevant (make the goal relevant to something important in your life so you will be motivated to achieve it--I want to lose 30 pounds so that I will feel great in my swimsuit), and Time-Bound (this is the accountability part, and it usually works better if you have a few smaller deadlines built in--5 pounds by month 1, 10 pounds by month 2, etc.)
Make a Plan
I heard a great quote recently--”those who don’t make a plan, plan to fail.” If you don’t take the time to invest in a well thought out plan for your health, then it’s like betting on yourself to fail. Following the S.M.A.R.T. principle, take enough time out of this week (YES, THIS WEEK) to sit down with a pencil and paper and plot your course. If you put this off, it won’t get done, and the only person you can blame is yourself. If you need help drawing up a plan of action, just ask a friend or family member that you find to be driven or motivated. If that’s not useful, find a healthcare practitioner whom you trust to help you plan. We are paid professionals and won’t waste your time setting you up for failure. And what exactly will that plan look like?
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
We’ve all heard the tortoise vs. hare parable. I have found it to be true about 99% of the time. Whether you are spending your money, or embarking on new health changes, consistency is way more important and reliable than intensity. Starting an intensive exercise or demanding diet with no prior conditioning or discipline is almost always guaranteed to fail. It is just a simple fact of human nature. A far more sustainable plan is to make small changes which will add up over time, becoming the foundation for much greater changes down the road. For example, consider starting your better health resolution by simply drinking the recommended daily amount of water each day (which, by the way, is somewhere between 2.7 and 3.7 liters). Once you can easily do this task, you are ready to conquer the next one and will have more energy, drive, and hydrated tissue to do so.
Choose Your Battles, Win the War
The 80:20 rule of financial investing applies beautifully to health investing. It means that your time is best spent on the 20% of improvements that yield 80% or more of your total gains. In other words, what are the smallest things you can change to get you the greatest results? For example, you want to lose weight but know that you have an uncontrollable sweet tooth that keeps you craving sugar and storing body fat. This sweet-tooth, then, should be your primary target. You can then research simple ways to start tackling this beast and begin the slow and steady race. Proper hydration, by the way, is a simple starting point. After the simplest task is complete, you can start on the next one--eating more fiber, protein, and good fats (which will help your blood sugar from crashing and creating cravings in the first place) or getting one more hour of sleep each night (which will improve your metabolism), whatever. This will obviously require some research into your life and habits. If you have trouble being honest with yourself, getting a friend or paid professional to point out some areas is advised.
Keep the Ball Rolling
Healthy living is all about momentum. The happiest and most successful people are not the ones who have the most money or the best genetics. They are the ones who can take the worst situations and keep moving forward. As a species, we are hard-wired for optimism. It is what gets us out of bed each morning and looking for answers as to how to live a better life. If you are reading this now, you are part of this optimism. Simple and daily practices like I discussed above are the tried and true way to get the ball in motion and keep it in motion. Sure, it will take a little effort to get the wave in motion (especially if it hasn’t moved in a while), but once it is moving, there is nothing that can stop it. In time, you will reach your own goals and inspire those around you to do the same. I wish you luck and support on this journey!