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How to Use New Year's Resolutions to Manage Your Health Conditions

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Most New Year’s resolutions fail, but yours don’t have to. Avoid these common pitfalls and you’ll set this year up for success in managing and improving your conditions.

Pitfall: Too Many Things

The more goals you set, the less likely you are to achieve any of them. You only have so much time and attention in a day, not to mention you have your health conditions to manage.

Pick one (maybe two) things to work on. You’ll still be in maintenance mode for everything else, so it’s not like you’re going to drop everything. But, you’ll only intentionally work on one to two new things.

One question that can help you decide: What’s something you can do that makes everything else easier or irrelevant?

  • If you’re not consistent on your physical therapy exercises and realize that if you had more strength, you could be able to do a lot more functional things around the house, maybe that’s what you focus on. If you do it, it makes everything else easier.
  • Perhaps it’s really hard for you to ask for help and therefore you push yourself too far, slowing your improvement. Maybe the one thing you focus on is receiving help from others. If you do that, other things become easier or irrelevant.

Once you have your one to two things, put everything else on a “later list.” That list keeps track of possible treatments to try so you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. But, it also gets those ideas out of your head and therefore not occupying mental space. It frees you up to focus only on your one to two things.

Pitfall: Too Vague

If you have a clear path but it leads towards something you don’t want, you’ll choose it over an unclear path that leads towards your desired goal. You’ll pick the clear path over the unclear path most times. Clarity drives action. You want clarity on where you want to go, and on specific things you can do to get there.

Notice I said “specific things you can do,” not “should do.” These are very different, especially when your health limits you.

For example, I know that exercise improves my health conditions, but I’m very limited in how much I can sit and stand. The only kind of cardio I can do is swimming, so even if someone thinks that I “should” do a different kind of exercise, I can’t.

Focusing on what you can do instead of what you can’t do is more empowering, too.

Once you’ve picked your one to two things to work on (in addition to maintaining other aspects of your life), pick one to two things you can do. As long as doing those things is within your control and it leads you closer to your desired end goal, that’s what you want. These things should be clear and easy to understand.

For example, if you want to get better at asking for help, you could make a goal of asking for help once per day. I’m sure you could do other actions that could lead you towards that goal, but this is just one idea.

Maybe you try out one thing that you think will lead you towards your goal and then realize it’s not working. That’s totally fine. You can always switch it up. If your end goal is clear, you can pick some other action to take that help you get there.

Pitfall: Can’t See Progress

Progress is exciting and motivating. But, if progress is slow and hard to see, it’s easy to lose steam. Easy solution – make a scoreboard, something that shows you’re taking the right steps.

If your goal is to get better asking for help, it could be as simple as a Post-It note with tally marks on it. Each week, you could see your improvement in how many times you ask for help.

Scoreboards can take many forms, so pick one you’ll find motivating. It might take some experimentation, so feel free to tweak it as you go.

Important note: your scoreboard should keep track of your actions, not your results. Your actions are within your control. Your results are not, and even if you do all the right things, results still might vary from day-to-day.

If you track your actions, you will know that you’re doing something within your power to improve your situation.

Pitfall: No Accountability

If life is a video game, it’s not a solo mission – it’s massively multiplayer, fully interactive. Others are on the journey with you and they can help you stay on the right track.

Accountability can take many forms, but it all has the same end goal – celebrating your successes and redirecting you when you’ve gotten off course.

  • Maybe it’s a group text with a few of your friends where you each pick one thing to do that we can then check in on how it went.
  • Maybe it’s an in-person or virtual meet-up where you talk more in-depth.
  • Maybe you have a medical professional like a physical therapist checking in with you.
  • Maybe it’s some sort of online forum.

Whatever form it takes, choose one that works for you and feel free to tweak it as you go.

Let next year be a year of great improvement

Your health might be complicated, but your path forward doesn’t have to be.

By focusing on one thing you can control, one thing that’s likely to have a big impact, it’ll be easier to see your progress and therefore easier to be motivated. Add in an exciting scoreboard and some people to keep you accountable – I’d say you’ve set yourself up for success.

Now go out there and be awesome.

Getty image by Filo.

Originally published: January 5, 2022
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