There are many steps when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle. First, you have to actually want to make that choice. No matter how many people tell you that you need to change, if you are not willing to change then nothing will happen. Then you have to figure out how you want to change, what you are going to do, and then actually put it into practice. Along the way there will be a million other little steps and choices that will make up your healthy journey. At many points during this process, it is very likely that you will be met with challenges and possibly even failure. I’ve talked about failure before and it doesn’t have to be your undoing. I’ve also talked about the desire as well as the motivation to change. Today, I want to talk about maintaining your choices for the long haul. What happens once you have done everything else and want to keep living healthy for the long haul?
It’s very common, and helpful, to have goals when you decide to start being healthy. Whether that is to exercise more, eat better, lose weight, or even just relax more, it is good to have something to work towards. Not many people plan for what they’re going to do once they reach that goal. For the longest time, I just wanted to lose weight. That was my ultimate goal. Some days I had a set amount that I wanted to lose, other times I just wanted to lose something. I never really thought about what would happen once I reached that goal, in part because I never seemed to reach that goal. I would lose a little, then gain it back. Start eating better, then quickly fall off the wagon. Get on an exercise schedule for a few weeks, then start making excuses to skip. The whole see saw of good and bad that a lot of people go through when they decide to be healthier. After years of the teeter-tottering back and forth, I finally got my act together and made the commitment, not to just lose weight, but to be healthier and feel good. After a good amount of dedication (and my fair share of sweat and tears), I reached that goal. I felt awesome and proud and… what do I do now?
I had focused for so long on the end prize that I never really thought about what to do after that. I knew that I couldn’t just go back to what I did before, a mistake that many people make. They think that once they get what they want they can just go back to living their “regular” lives. The problem with that logic is that often, their “regular” lives are what got them to unhealthy place that they were. Knowing that I couldn’t go back, I slowly began to realize that my lifestyle was forever, and that scared me. I began to panic and worry that I couldn’t keep this up for the rest of my life. Could I really keep myself healthy for the next month let alone the next 50 years? When you are working towards small goals, it doesn’t seem as daunting. That’s why it’s good to make small and manageable goals. You won’t feel overwhelmed by having to completely overhaul the way you eat if you just work to change a few meals a day. It doesn’t seem as scary to just lose 5 pounds in two weeks compared to losing 100 pounds total. But now that I had reached my goal, I had the seemingly big and scary goal of maintaining this for the rest of my life.
Maybe you have reached that point in your journey. You have managed all the little goals that have added up to your ultimate goal and you’re now faced with the unknown. What do you do now? Take a deep breath and don’t worry. Once I got over my initial panic, I started to think of how I could handle this new challenge. I thought of all that I had accomplished, and realized it was a lot. I could handle a lot of things, challenging things, and come out on top. I had just proven that to myself. I didn’t get healthier overnight, in fact it took a few years to get to a good place. If I could do that, surely I could handle the rest of my life. Building on that confidence, I also realized that I could still set small goals to work towards and not look at this new part of my journey as a huge chunk aka the rest of my life. I could still break it down into small and manageable pieces. My new goals would just look different than my other goals. Try new healthy meals, train for a longer race, buy one new workout DVD a month, there were still plenty of things to work for.
The truth is, if you want to be healthier and feel good, you’re going to have to be in it for the long haul. You can’t just decide to be healthy for a month and then expect to reap the benefits forever, that’s ridiculous. But you don’t have to be intimidated by forever. Continue to set goals for yourself. While the goal might not be to lose weight or start making healthier choices, there are still things for you to accomplish. Be empowered by the fact that you have reached a major goal and use that feeling to keep going. Journeys aren’t short things. They’re long and they’re lasting. Your health is a journey, one that I know you can excel and thrive at. Meet your challenges head on like you have from the beginning and you will do just fine.