Setting Short Term Goals

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Jackie Smith.

I am a list maker. I love making lists. Any lists. My recent lists include: Movies to see before the Oscars, books to read, music to buy on iTunes, things to do today (this week, next month, someday), what I am packing for my next trip (followed by a list of what I need to get before I pack for that trip). I get down to the nitty-gritty detail. I know that I need to pick up tights, hair products and take shoes to get repaired.

So why is it that when it comes to my health, the most important possession any of us has, the issue seems so insurmountable that I can't even make it to the list making point?

Here goes:

I want to lose 60 pounds, 5 inches of fat around my waist, look significantly slimmer by the summer (when I expect to see many professional and personal friends during my travels for work), run a mile without stopping once and see a 6.0 on my next A1C test.

Yet, I've been at this for 6 weeks now and I have yet to see a difference.  Now is when I typically give up after starting a new diet, workout regimen, class. How do I convince myself that I need to stick to it?

It may be that I am thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe instead I should take every tiny win I can get Even fractions of pounds are still a win if lost, right?

If I think in terms of setting small term goals that will ideally prepare me to set the long term goals (you know, the big life ones like retire to Tahiti or move to Paris), what small changes will get me to the big changes I want to see?

Lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. (Great! Now how do I do that?)

Go to the gym for a cardio workout 3 times next week and add 5 minutes more. (If I say 5 times and then miss two early on, I may give up on that week all together!)

Do one strength training workout at the gym or at home next week.

Add 10 minutes of physical activity to my daily routine.

Avoid potatoes for one week.

Eat a vegetable and a fruit at every meal.

Drink water at every meal

Do not sample treats offered at the office.

Do not step on the scale every day. This will only make you sad. Only weigh myself once a week.

These things I can do. If only one at a time, a week at a time.

However, I am realistic!

What's not on this list:

  • Morning workouts. Granted, I feel great and even more energetic all day when I do make it to a morning workout, but I love my sleep. It's just not realistic and I don't want to set myself up for failure early on.
  • Running a 5K by May. Yeah, that's not going to happen. But who knows, maybe it can by September.
  • Becoming a vegetarian. That is, until perhaps I discover enough food options.

I am hoping that each small change will make the next change easier - but I do need just keep going even after a slip-up. If I don't then I will never make from this week's list to the someday list and those 60 pounds will still be with me and may have invited some friends to join us.

One last thing, I think that we all need to add one more small change to our list:

  • Don't be so hard on yourself.

Next up: Self-Sabotage and You