Assess Your Current Health1
Get a physical. Review all of the tests and ask your physician what health areas you need to work on. Request from her recommendations for activities and lifestyle changes that would contribute to your health. In most physicals, your doctor will check your vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, respiration) and then examine your heart, lungs, head, neck/throat, stomach, reflexes, nerves, muscle strength, mental state, skin, nails and your extremities. If you are a man, the doctor will also examine your testicles, penis, prostate and test for hernias. If you are a woman, the doctor will conduct a breast and pelvic exam, including a pap smear. For both men and women, your doctor may run a urinalysis, blood count or chemistry panel. Physicians usually run cholesterol tests every five years.
List the areas for which you would like to set goals. These health-related areas might include exercise, medication and supplements, diet, sleep habits, skin care, body care or heart health.
Establish the benchmark you wish to achieve for each of these areas. Describe the ideal behavior or condition you would like to accomplish. For example, in the area of exercise, you may want to set a benchmark of strength training twice a week and aerobic exercise three times a week. The benchmark is where you would like to be.
Evaluate where your current performance is compared with the benchmarks you established. Write what your habits or condition is at this moment. For example, in the area of sleep habits, you might write that you currently sleep six hours a night and go to bed at a different time every day. Your current performance is where you are now.
Analyze the gap between your benchmark level and your current performance level. This gap identifies the areas that you need to work on and will help you to set goals for your personal health plan. It will also let you map your progress. If your benchmark for sleeping, for example, is that you want to get eight hours of sleep every night and be in bed no later than midnight, you could identify that the gap between your benchmark and your current performance is two hours of sleep and four days where you get to sleep after midnight. Your goal, then, will focus on how to get those extra two hours and how to change those four days. The gap is the difference between the benchmark and your current performance.
Brainstorm with a friend, medical care professional or family member about activities that you could do to help you reach your benchmark in each of the areas that you identified during your health assessment. For example, if you want to get five servings of fruit or vegetables into your diet every day and you are currently getting only three, you might do things such as keep fruit in a bowl on the table, add carrot sticks to your lunch bag or add a salad to your dinner.
Write three to five very specific goals for each of the areas where there was a gap between where you want to be and where you are now. Make sure you write out exactly what you want to achieve without being too general. For example, if you are trying to get to sleep earlier, you might write the goal, "Dim the lights in my room 30 minutes before bedtime."
Create a time line for each of your goals. Determine whether you want to achieve that goal within the next week, next month or next year. Make sure it is realistic to achieve the goal within that time frame. You would not want, for example, to set a goal that you will lose 30 pounds in one month or increase your daily run from a half mile to five miles in one week. A more realistic time frame would be to lose 30 pounds over six months or to increase your daily run by five minutes each day.
Identify the resources you will need to achieve your health goals. For example, if one of your goals is to ride a bike for 20 minutes every day, you will need to have a bicycle, bike helmet and a water bottle. Be sure to list intangible resources that you feel you will need as well such as the support of your family for a change in diet or the courage to ask for changes at work to lower your stress levels.
Create a checklist, spreadsheet or calendar to record your goals in a visual manner. You can also create reminder cards to put into your wallet, pin to a corkboard or put on the refrigerator shelves. The reminder card can either reprint your goal in total or be a reminder to pursue one of the activities that will get you closer to your goal. For example, a card in your wallet might say, "Drink milk instead of soda" or "Take the stairs instead of the elevator today."
Appoint one day each week where you will review your health plan. Give yourself 10 minutes on that day to reread your goals and see what your progress has been. Be prepared to make adjustments based on your activities that week. If you need to, give yourself more time, scale back your goal or add additional challenges.
Compare where you are on each goal with your benchmark. Consider making a graph where you can visually record your progress toward each goal. If you are proficient in spreadsheets, most spreadsheet programs will create a graph from a table. You may also be able to find programs on line that will let you create visual representations of your goal progress. Sites such as Chart Jungle offer several different goal charts.
Assess how you feel. As you achieve goals, check in with yourself to see whether you are feeling better and healthier. Are the goals helping you make your health better? If, for example, you have weaned yourself off of caffeine, do you feel more alert? Do you have fewer headaches? Are you able to sleep better?
Visit your doctor regularly. Get a physical at least annually and review your health plan with your doctor. Get his advice on how to make progress toward your goals. You may also need to visit the doctor more often than yearly if your goals are related to such things as lowering blood pressure, changing your blood sugar levels or trying to wean yourself off a particular medication.