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 Set Goals for the Changes You Want to Make 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by . View all columns in series
If your approach to life is mainly one of "going with the flow," you're likely to find yourself being washed down the stream, backward.

To have any real sense of getting somewhere, it's helpful to know where you're starting from and where you want to go. Goal setting is a dynamic tool for getting things done, and helps you clarify what is important in your life, what your priorities are. And it aids self-esteem. By setting goals you are resisting the mentality that says you are a victim in life. Instead, you affirm your choice for self-responsibility: "I am responsible for my life and health" and "I am a worthwhile person."

Goals are like maps-they keep you on course. More than that, goals are like magnets-they tend to attract things that help get them accomplished. It's almost magical at times, the way this works. When you put down in words what you want to achieve, you immediately start to see or remember the resources that are all around you.

Many people make lists of the things they have to do that day or that week. When they cross some items off, they have a feeling of accomplishment. Even if they only get through half the list, they still feel good knowing that they've moved forward.

There is power in setting goals, so tap into that power now.

Small Changes-An Exercise in Setting Goals
People often overwhelm themselves by tackling a goal that they think they "should" achieve. They set their sights too high and then quit completely when they don't make the grade. It helps to make a distinction between the goals you think you want and the goals to which you will really commit. 1. Read back over the letters and lists you generated in Discover What You Already Know. Star any items that you really want to change or work on in some way. Add any new ones that occur to you. Call this selection of starred items and additions your "Want List."

If you didn't do the exercises offered in that section, draw up a Want List now, noting aspects of your life that you know are affecting your overall health. For example: the people, behaviors, circumstances, and environments that encourage or discourage your wellness.

2. Now look over your Want List and put a double star next to any items that you are ready to change or work on in some way right now. Write down those items in complete sentences that express your willingness to act. For example:

I am ready and willing to commit to making a change in my habit of driving over the speed limit.

I am ready and willing to...

3. Prioritize your commitment statements.

4. Starting with your top priority item, brainstorm for a moment or two about any preliminary steps you will need to take before you can start working directly on your goal. For example, will you need to purchase some special equipment, shop at a different food store, start reading a book on nutrition, get some instruction in weight-bearing exercise, or have a consultation with your doctor? Write these steps down.

Now set up a schedule for accomplishing these preliminaries. Assigning specific dates, times, places, or methods to these items will maximize the likelihood of your follow-through.

5. Next, make a Resource List of the people, places, and things that are available to help you in fulfilling your commitment. For example:

My children, I can ask them to remind me of my commitment when they see I am breaking it.

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 About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of ...moreJohn Travis MD, MPH
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