What kinds of results do you want for your life? What do you want to be different than it is right now? Results can be thought of as a simple equation:
RESULTS = MOTIVATION x ACTIONS
If you have a lot of motivation toward change, but aren’t taking any action, you aren’t likely to glean any results. How does that work? Well, remember from our arithmetic days that the product of any number and 0 is 0, so if your actions are a ‘0’ then you are going to have ‘0’ results. Similarly, if you have no motivation to change, you aren’t likely to have any results. Your best strategy to achieve changes that you want is to make sure you are motivated in the proper direction, and then take action toward achieving those results. Having only half of the equation is going to net you a 0. But if you have a lot of motivation and are taking a number of correct actions, you increase your chances of reaping the rewards of significant results. Go for it!
Are problems that we face in our life barriers to success, or just life challenges we can overcome?
A few years ago, I went to spectate the Lifetime Fitness Triathlon to cheer on several friends who were competing in the event to challenge themselves, their bodies, and particularly their minds. I expected to see men and women of all different ages, body types and shapes, and varying levels of training programs, striving to complete the event and perhaps achieve a personal best. What I did not anticipate was the young boy (I estimate that he was about 12-13 years of age) clicking off a 5.5 minute mile (speedy!), the vast array of emotions of the relay teams and individuals supporting charities and causes held so important to them, and another sight that captured the day for me . . . the sight of one particular woman competing . . . the woman whose left leg was amputated below the knee and who was racing with a prosthetic, finishing strong and with the most glorious look of accomplishment on her face as she crossed the finish line.
This woman signified to me the strength of our human resolve. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about her, yet I stood in awe (cheering, of course!) because she had completed a triathlon with a circumstance that might have been an impasse to some, yet was “only” a hurdle to her.
And so it begged to me a question, “can we choose to reduce things that seem like barriers to mere hurdles?” Perhaps not with all circumstances. Yet with determination, a solid plan and fans cheering us on, perhaps we can find that some of life’s “dead ends” are not ends at all, but are challenges we can work toward overcoming. I remain, to this day, inspired by that woman’s determination and resolve not only to complete the race, but to do so much faster than most of us could!
Goals are excellent aims for us to have. They can guide us toward our future, toward changes that we want to make, and toward accomplishments we seek to achieve. But setting goals can also set us up for defeat if they are too lofty. Ideally, goals should be “smart” goals. What is meant by that?
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Reasonable
T = Time-limited
For example, someone could have a goal such as “I want to pay off my $2,000 worth of credit card debt.” But without a reasonable plan, that might seem daunting and frustrating on a daily basis to think about the $2,000 debt that you want to eliminate, especially if you think you need the entire $2,000 all at once and don’t avoid accruing more debt. However, a “smart” goal might be something like, “I will review my budget and identify where I can save $125 each month to put toward paying off my credit card debt, and I will cut up my credit cards so I can’t use them. If all goes well, I should be able to pay off the credit card debt within 2 years, even taking into account the interest.” This goal is very SMART, of identifying $125/month to shave from expenses and put toward the credit card debt each month for a maximum of 2 years.
When you set goals for yourself, use the acronym above to guide you toward setting goals that are SMART; and have fun reaping the rewards!
If we evaluated life like an academic course, what would it take to earn an A in your life goals? Instructors develop syllabi to help students conceptualize what works needs to be completed and what grades on tests and exams need to be achieved in order to get a good grand in the class. As the instructor of your own life, develop an outline of how you could earn an A in your own life. Take a limited period of time, such as 3 months, and write down what you would need to accomplish in that period of time in order to earn that good grade. Make sure that your syllabus includes only SMART goals – goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-limited. Then break down those goals into smaller parts so that each week, perhaps each day, you can keep your focus on the immediate tasks at hand. Then at the end of the time period, go ahead and evaluate yourself. I hope you have earned an A!
Just as houses need to have a strong foundation in order to keep us sheltered from storms, each of us needs to have a strong mental health foundation that we can build the rest of our life upon. What are the blocks of your foundation? How much sleep do you need each day to function at your fullest? Are you eating and hydrating properly so that your body is at peak performance? What daily activities help you to manage stress, such as taking a walk, practicing meditation, or having a time-out during the day? How do you keep your spiritual needs nurtured? Do you live with honesty and integrity? How often do you engage with the persons in your life who help you to live a happy, productive and fulfilling life? Our physical, emotional and spiritual foundation is integral to help us get through the downs of life and to boost us during the ups and celebrations. I encourage you to identify your personal foundation blocks to strengthen your life.
Wellness is defined as the state or condition of being in good physical and mental health; Illness is a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind. Looking at the spelling of these two words, the letters in common are the ones at the end. Yet what differentiates these two words from one another are the beginning letters – WE versus I. WEllness is often achieved by building a community of individuals (the “we”) who can support our health, growth and strength. Yet when we become individually focused or isolative and do not involve others around us (the “I”), we may be prone to Illness in that our internal focus may lead us astray in terms of our goals. We could become exhausted if we do not have those around us to guide, nurture, uplift and empower us to reach greater heights. To be well, take a careful look around you to see who can be part of your team – who can support you – who may be able to help you reach your greatest potential. Involve them in your life so that you can achieve WEllness.
“If you do not make time for health, you will eventually have to make time for disease.”
This quote is applicable to both mental and physical health. How we spend our time living our lives now directly influences how we will live our lives later. I regularly speak about the benefits of routine mental health practices – – adequate sleep, taking time out for calm and relaxation (such as with yoga, meditation, or prayer), setting boundaries around our most important commitments while ridding our lives of unnecessary distractions, etc – – and how they can enhance optimal mental health functioning. Physical health practices, such as regular low-impact exercise, appropriate nutrition and hydration, good posture and abstinence from smoking and excessive alcohol use can also directly influence our bodies and quality of life.
I believe that the amount of time we spend focusing on good health now is a more efficient use of our time compared to dealing with diseases later. Furthermore, placing our efforts on good physical and mental health practices today may be enjoyable!!!
What are you doing regularly now to help maintain good health or even improve your health?
In our first 18 years of life, our goals are fairly structured. We go to school, we have a part-time job, we develop relationships and obtain a driver’s license, and we’re supposed to get ready to emancipate from the family home. What lies beyond high school graduation (or perhaps past college graduation) is more ambiguous and challenging for some individuals to navigate. They find themselves asking questions like, “What do I do now? How do I know if I’m doing a good job? Everyone else has graduated, is getting married and having kids, and I haven’t. Does that mean something is wrong with me?”
I think one key to getting through young adulthood with the fewest emotional scars is to have a plan that is your own. Reframe the question “What do I do now?” to “What do I WANT to do now? What is important to me in life? What do I want to accomplish? What is my own agenda and how do I get there?” This is a time to begin the transition from external sources of influence (parents, teachers, coaches, friends, etc.) to internal standards (where you are the guide). It may not be an easy transition, yet it is important to cultivate and own your future and that which is important to you.
The University of Michigan’s World Values Survey has been keeping track of happiness in different countries across the globe for over 20 years. No surprise, the United States didn’t make the top of the list. In fact, their research has shown that at any point in time, one-fourth of American’s are mildly depressed. Yet there is some very interesting research (se Lichter, Haye & Kammann, 1980, New Zealand Psychologist article “Increasing happiness through cognitive retraining”) that shows that we may be able to increase our happiness in only ten minutes per day! Two groups were compared: one was asked to discuss happiness-relevant issues and the other was asked to recite happiness-increasing affirmations for ten minutes each day. Both groups reported an increase in happiness by 25%. I think this is another amazing and fascinating example of how significant our thoughts are toward our mental health. Are you ready to give ten minutes of your day to feel more happy?
You have probably heard the quote by Albert Einstein that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again.” Certainly, many people want something to be different in their life. What they may underestimate is the amount of time, energy, deliberation and focus that goes into reshaping life. If you keep yourself focused on the ultimate goal but break down the task into smaller, manageable steps, change can happen! Consider this example: If you are hiking a mountain, you can look up at the top of the mountain from time to time to remind yourself why you are exerting a tremendous amount of energy on the climb so that you can cheer once you reach the top. Yet in order to reach the top of the mountain you need to spend most of your time focused on the five or so feet in front of you so that you retain your footing and balance. If your eyes are constantly gazing at the top of the mountain, you may not “see” that you are getting very far and you may lose your balance and tumble backward. However, when your eyes bear witness to the steps that you have mastered and the distance you have already traversed, you may feel energized to keep going. Be purposeful in the alterations that you want to make in your life, yet break them down into smaller, more manageable parts in order to reduce the likelihood that you will become discouraged along the way.