Interpretation: Goal setting is critical to accomplishing any task. Is it possible to reach a goal without having a plan and a strategy? Of course it is. Almost anything is possible. If you want to significantly tip the odds in your favor, however, setting goals helps. In fact, a study appearing in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that good goal setting increases your chances of reaching your diet objective by 84 percent.
Application: Goals need to be specific. Don't make vague statements such as “I'm going to lose weight” instead be specific and say, “I'm going to lose 45 pounds in a year.” The Journal of Sports Sciences reported that when individuals assign themselves specific goals they achieve a better result. The investigators also noted that as you increase specificity (e.g., “20 pounds in 16 weeks” vs. “20 pounds”) you improve your performance.
Goals should answer the questions how, when, where and why and should help set your course of action. So, building on your specific goal of losing 45 pounds in a year, it would be better to say, “I'm going to lose 45 pounds in a year, which means I will cut 157,500 calories from my current eating program and/or increase my physical activity.” Even better would be adding, “I need to cut about 3,000 calories per week, or about 428 calories per day.”
Quotes: “A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all. It's seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future. It's seeing what other people don't see, and pursuing the vision, no matter who tells you not to. … While bad luck, it's true, may come out of the blue, good luck, it seems, comes to those who plan for it.” Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks
“I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.” Thomas Jefferson
Interpretation: You can make your own luck by creating opportunities.
Application: Make your own luck by planning and making sure you're opportunity-ready. Opportunities are all around us. If we make a point to be aware of and open to the world we're familiar with, we might find long-overlooked answers to problems that have plagued us. If we are closed-minded, unwilling to explore new ideas and review our current situation, it's unlikely we will see an opportunity even if it's right in front of us. The failure to recognize opportunities to arrive at new solutions has sometimes been called “resource myopia,” meaning we don't see what's under our noses because we're so close to it. You need to open yourself up to free your mind and expose yourself to new influences.
Quote: “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” Ayn Rand
Interpretation: Making poor choices in the short term leads to problems in the long run. Unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise will increase your risk of disease and your likelihood of a lower quality of life.
Application: Think of the future. Try imaging yourself as older, healthy and enjoying your life. Write down how you view your future. The easiest way to do this is to create an imagined future event or situation where you're fit and healthy.
Quote: “Whether you think that you can, or that you can't, you are usually right.” Henry Ford
Interpretation: Would you ever get on an airplane after you'd overheard the pilot say, “I don't think I can make it all the way to New York. I just know I'm going to crash. I'm so scared!” Of course not! Well, we are the pilots of our lives, and what we tell ourselves about our ability or inability to reach a goal matters. Whether we're aware of it or not, most of us have a constant stream of internal commentary running in our heads. Examples of negative commentary would be telling yourself, “I can't lose weight it's in my genes,” or, “I'll never be able to exercise three times a week,” or, “I can't eat at a restaurant without pigging out on the bread basket.”
Do you really want to be the one convincing yourself that you won't succeed?
Application: Give yourself a pep talk. Start by creating affirmations: strong, positive statements asserting that something desirable about yourself is, in fact, true. The idea is to use your words to help yourself succeed by “talking to yourself about yourself” in a positive light.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences divided golfers of high and low skill into two groups not related to their skill level. The first group was asked to repeatedly tell themselves they would do well in a series of putts, while the second group was instructed to tell themselves they would not do well. The investigators found that the players instructed to engage in negative self-talk performed much worse than those who used positive self-talk, regardless of skill level.
Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of www.DietDetective.com.