In the first article we addressed the reality of the situation: it is 2022 and perhaps it is time to make some changes in our lives and embrace nurturing our overall wellness. We developed a vision for the future – imagined that person we want to be and the things we wanted to do – and documented it in some form. It could be a vision board or a list of what our future could hold. Next, we pondered what was holding us back from living that life and evaluated what things were in our control to change.
Part two addressed those obstacles – creating a foundation for our goals and developing a plan. We brainstormed. We looked at whatever was standing in front of us and plotted a new route ahead. We said, “no, 2022. I lived through 2020 and 2021. I am going to take back some control and do something new. For me. For my sanity.” At least, that’s what I said.
That problem solving step is where we found the concrete S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, timely), which are focused on behavioral goals to reach your vision. Instead of writing down all the goals and starting all the things at once, we started small. Whatever goal was chosen, we shared it with a friend and documented it in a place that would remind us. Then we put our goals into action. Even if it was something small, like researching local dance classes or putting away the phone at the same time each night, we committed to the goal and attempted to follow through.
All of this work is to facilitate behavioral changes. We’ve prepared, we’ve taken action. What happens now?
9. Document, evaluate, and adjust as you carry out your plan.
Ask yourself what is working and what needs to change.
This process is part of the action phase. As you go, make adjustments and document findings, update your plans, and reflect on the process to ensure the changes are bringing you closer to your vision.
If there is a hiccup along the way, say you make a goal to workout three days in the upcoming week and only hit two days, it is very easy to look at a failure and give up. Don’t. This is how we grow and learn to manage challenges. Analyze the obstacles that inhibited you from reaching your goal. Embrace making those adjustments on the fly, or recommit to them the following week with a plan in place which addresses the problems. Always reflect on what is happening and why things work or do not work.
I created a goal to put away my phone before bed, using a book to replace my typical phone use habit before bed. To record progress towards this goal, I documented my sleep patterns. If I was still awake after a set time, I made a note of it in the morning rather than stressed about documenting the fact that I was still awake.
The first week, I had a few nights where reading did not work, but even though I committed to no screen time, I found myself reaching for my phone, then getting out of bed to get my phone. The hamster wheel in my mind would not stop. I noted the pattern in my behavior and began to brainstorm other ways to clear my mind before bed. It wasn’t a failure, but a recognition that I needed to explore other avenues.
This turned into an experimental phase for sleep, as I tried a variety of things. I made a new goal to research potential solutions and make changes, and as before I documented the impact. I played this game until I found a combination that brought me to the point where I could reliably fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake-up without hitting the snooze button three times. I noted that the time I ate dinner impacted my ability to fall asleep. Alcohol consumption – on occasions I imbibed – seemed to be related to waking up in the middle of the night. Upon further research, I learned about alcohol metabolism and the impact on quality of sleep and waking during the night. For the mental unwind, I found audiobooks with a soothing narrator as I am very sensitive to audio, and picked up a notebook for a general information dump before bed as a way to purge my brain.
I had to create a routine, which is part of developing sustainable behavior changes. It wasn’t that I had to do one thing for only one week. I had a vision that required adjustments in multiple areas of my life. I started with small goals to manage stress just so I could get to creating new goals that supported other aspects of my vision.
10. Celebrate victories and build upon your success.
It is very easy to skip over congratulating yourself for something you think you should’ve been doing in the first place. I am notorious for shrugging my shoulders and not recognizing my accomplishments with tasks and I am not alone. There is a, “you did what you’re supposed to do, get over it,” mindset that exists. Celebrate your victories. Recognize and share your growth.
Dive into what is next to keep the momentum going, which means going back to your initial vision, analyzing obstacles, solving potential problems, making fresh goals and doing the work. This is an iterative process and there are bumps along the way. But long-term change happens when we set ourselves up for success and stick to things that align with our values and personal vision.
I started this three-part series by sharing the simplified version of my personal wellness vision. I had big dreams when I created my vision. Living with a chronic illness during this pandemic has been the biggest obstacle to success and managing it has taken time. Once I had my sleep routine somewhat settled, I committed to other goals that supported my wellness journey. I added physical activity – more than walking. I pushed myself while respecting my physical boundaries. I noticed that sleep and physical activity were excellent stress reducers, but I needed to do things to support the growth of my business and creative writing endeavors. Knowing I could tackle some of the health obstacles because I had the evidence – I wrote down my previous successes and saw results after taking time to commit to the process.
I went back to the beginning and set a very clear long-term vision for the year. It was concrete and included multiple dimensions of wellness. I wanted to focus on occupational (managing my business) and intellectual wellness (creative, stimulating endeavors).
One of the things I wanted to do included submitting creative writing to at least three magazines or competitions. I looked at the obstacles, did some problem solving. From there I filled in the behavioral SMART goals. What needed to be done to achieve these things? Once again, I wrote everything down and when I had my plan, I began to take the steps required to get there, all while managing other wellness domains in my life. I can honestly say that somehow in 2021, I found a way to accomplish more than I thought possible with what was unfolding around me. I had the help of my formal training and another coach, but I always use the things from my wellness toolkit that I’ve shared in this series to evaluate my life when I am feeling stuck.
Recognize that it is valid to feel everything that is happening in your life. We are bombarded with obstacles, but we have the ability to problem solve. YOU have that ability to survive, but the steps outlined in the last three articles can take you further than just surviving the day-to-day.
*Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, a therapist, or licensed mental health professional. This is not a replacement for advice from your doctor.