When you go to set a goal, it should be time-bound. Will this particular goal take one month? One year? You want to be able to track how you’re progressing over time.
When it comes to health goals, we want them to last. Health goals should be achievable through building healthy habits and sticking to a routine. That’s why most health goals are considered long-term goals. It takes time to build healthy habits that will actually stick.
A short-term goal is a goal you can reach in a short period of time. For example, on a weekly basis. Maybe your short-term goal is to cut back on the amount of alcohol you drink weekly, hoping that in the long-term you quit altogether.
Other short-term health goals could be planning on exercising 3 times a week, waking up early to meditate twice a week, or journaling before bed for a week. All of these goals have the potential to turn into long-term goals and become a healthy habit that you practice regularly.
Long-term goals are goals you set to achieve over an extended period of time. For example, saving up for your retirement, or living a healthy lifestyle. Long-term goals are dependent on short-term goals.
We all have to start somewhere. Short-term goals are a great place to start because the end goal is easier to see. This will give you the motivation to keep going and eventually turn your new practice into a habit. Habits are what you really want to build in order to achieve a long-term goal.
Habits take time to build. Short-term goals are great but don’t always stick around as a new habit. Not only that, but a lot of us have bad habits we need to overcome in order to start building habits we want to keep.
For example, you may be used to falling asleep with the television on every night. Studies have shown that blue light before bed may be detrimental to a good night’s sleep and should be replaced with a relaxing habit such as reading a book or journaling.
The longer you stick with a short-term goal, the more likely you are to create a habit that will help you achieve a longer-term goal.
Let's say your long-term goal is to live a healthy lifestyle. First, let's break down what a healthy lifestyle entails and then begin to choose habits we want to create over an extended period of time in order to reach the ultimate goal of living healthy.
What is a healthy lifestyle?
Simply put, a healthy lifestyle includes things that make you feel good and live happier. There are scientifically proven things such as eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep at night, physical activity daily, socializing and drinking enough water that will make you feel good.
Then there are individualized activities and habits that make you feel good based on your personality. These are things like playing certain sports, creating art, or spending time in nature. We can all benefit from all of these things, but your personality will drive you towards what really feeds your soul.
Let's start with what we know. Eating a nutritious and well-balanced diet will help you maintain a healthy body weight and feel better overall. Here is a list of healthy foods that you can incorporate into your long-term healthy diet goal.
Healthy foods include...
-dark green leafy vegetables
-beans and lentils
-fatty fish like salmon
-spices like turmeric & ginger
-nuts and seeds
New healthy habits can be scary, so having a list like this to choose from can help kickstart your healthy eating efforts. Once you achieve a short-term healthy eating goal, you can continue it week to week until eventually, your eating habits have changed entirely.
Start today! Choose 3 of the listed foods above and make a short-term goal to eat them once a day for a week. Remember that short-term goals don't mean you have created a habit. Short-term goals are just a stepping stone to get to your long-term goal of building a healthy habit.
Healthy eating isn't the only health goal out there. However, it may keep you energized and feeling good enough to tackle other new habits like physical exercise or meditation.
Health habits are essential short-term goals that lead you towards your long-term goals.
That's why it's all about long-term goals when it comes to healthy habits. If you don't have a long-term goal in place, it's harder to solidify new habits.
If your goal is to avoid future health problems, then you need to form healthy habits that will lead to better health. This takes a lot of positive thinking, motivation, and uprooting any of your old, unhealthy habits.
For example, you want to quit smoking. You know this will lead to future health issues, but it's a habit you've lived with now for a while. You know in order to live with optimal health, you will need to quit this bad habit.
Old habits like smoking are going to take a lot of hard work to stop. However, when you really want to achieve your long-term goal, it's easier to plan ahead and look towards a healthier future.
Track your progress.
Start with a short-term goal i.e. I will not smoke a single cigarette today. When you get to the end of the day, reward yourself. Soon, you will create a habit loop that no longer triggers you to want a cigarette because you know you will get a better reward in the long run.
There are plenty of tracking apps that can help hold you accountable for your long-term goals. When a goal is being pursued over an extended period of time, it can become daunting and easy to lose track of.
A simple way to track your progress is to start a progress journal. Each day you can write down what short-term goals you have completed and track how far along you are in your new habits.
Creating habits takes time and accountability
Long-term goals are essential to creating habits because habits take time to create. There are a few things you can do to make sure that your habits actually stick so you can see your long-term goals through.
For example, have someone hold you accountable. Whether it's a friend or a family member, there's probably someone in your life that wants to change their own habits, too. If you have someone going through your new habits with you, it can be more fun and easier to obtain.
Also, it's important to remind yourself that your feelings are fleeting. If you feel very strongly about wanting that cigarette or a piece of chocolate cake, though you know it will set you back in your long-term goals, then just give it a minute. Feelings come and go, and if you can remind yourself that, you will have more control over your impulses.
Consistency is crucial for habit building. If you're looking to achieve a long-term goal especially, you should be practicing your new healthy habits daily. The more time you give to them, the more likely your habits will become second nature.
Create a routine around what your long-term goals are. If it is to quit smoking, create a routine that will keep you from feeling those cravings and focus on your well-being instead.
For example, when a craving comes around, go for a walk outside and get some fresh air or soak in a hot bath with aromatherapy. Soon, your cravings will turn from negatives to positives.
Proven strategies for long-term goals
Though building habits takes time and a lot of trial and error, there are a few proven strategies for long-term goals that you may want to take into consideration.
Connect your long-term goals to your core values
It's easier to be motivated to work on goals that you truly believe in. It may seem obvious, but if you don't enjoy the work it takes to get to your goal, then you are more likely to quit and leave it behind.
Define your core qualities and schedule your healthy living habits to coordinate the life you already live. Studies show that "individuals pursuing very long-term goals sustain motivation by envisioning possible futures that result from the work they are doing."
For example, if you're a social person, maybe try a group exercise program rather than working out alone. If you practice a holistic lifestyle, you'll want to align your health goals with natural products and nutrition for the mind, body, and soul.
If you can incorporate your long-term goals with your core values it will likely be easier to overcome hurdles and stay motivated.
Apply the WOOP strategy
What is the WOOP strategy? WOOP stands for:
- Wish: What exactly do you want?
- Outcome: What would be the outcome of achieving this wish?
- Obstacles: What will get in the way of achieving this outcome?
- Plan: How will you work through these obstacles?
WOOP is a simple process of balancing the positive and the potential negatives in your mind by clearly understanding what will inevitably get in the way of your goals.
If you understand that barriers will arise when you are working on good habits, then you have a higher chance of sticking them through.
Avoid perfectionism by getting comfortable with uncertainty
Slip-ups are going to happen. By understanding that they will, you can reduce stress and stay focused. If you're obsessed with being perfect when you set out to achieve long-term goals, you may become disappointed and feel like giving up.
We all have an inner critic waiting to pounce on our mistakes. Instead of beating yourself up or getting discouraged, reframe your way of thinking to reflect a positive message for yourself.
For example, ask yourself, "what's the worst-case scenario?" Because I messed up today, will my entire goal be ruined? The likeliness of that happening is low unless you let your negative thoughts guide you. Just get back on track as soon as you realize you've messed up!
All of this may be easier said than done, but long-term goals were not made to be easy. If you have any questions or comments about habit-building in order to achieve long-term goals, please visit our Facebook Tribe group and let us know how you're doing in your personal health journey!