Have you ever thought of something you either wanted to do (“I want to lose weight“) or felt like you should do (“I should eat healthier“), but you just cannot get yourself to take the first step, because the task seems too overwhelming or out of reach? Or maybe you start making changes, but then after a while start to feel discouraged at your apparent lack of progress?
If so, you are not alone.
Starting today, I want you to begin incorporating something into your life—a type of goal-setting called Action Planning. Many of you may already be familiar with this. The purpose of an Action Plan is to set you on the road towards your personal goals by breaking them down into small, actionable steps. So let’s get started!
When it comes to your health (or any aspect of your life), Action Planning is one of the most useful tools for success. Once you get into the habit of making Action Plans, you will discover that almost everything you want to accomplish is within your reach–no matter how daunting they may seem.
With that said, what is an Action Plan composed of?
The 5 Building Blocks of an Action Plan:
1 – Exactly what you want to do.
2 – How much you will do.
3 – When you will do it.
4 – How often you will do it
5 – Your confidence level (1 = not confident at all; 10 = absolutely sure)
Let’s use exercise as an example.
The first step in making an Action Plan is to decide what you want to do this week–your Action (exercise).
Take that action (exercising), and make it as specific as you can. That means the what, when, how much, and how often. So for example, rather than just saying “I want to start exercising,” specify exactly what you want to do—
1 – What: walk
2 – How much: one block
3 – When: 6 in the morning
4 – How often: every other day
Now that you have your very specific goal, the last step is to ask yourself, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being totally unsure and 10 being fully certain, how confident am I that I can complete this task this week?”
So what you should end up with is a statement that sounds something like this:
“I want to walk one block every other day at 6 in the morning, and my confidence level is a 10”
Why, do you ask, is it necessary to add the “confidence level”? Actually, this last part—the confidence level—is the most important component of the Action Plan, because it forces one to actually gauge the goal’s practicality. Is it too easy? Is it too lofty? If you ask yourself to “rate” the task every time, you will be able to better set the personal goals that are perfect for you.
So what should you aim for? Aim to set a goal where you can have a confidence level of a 7 or 8. This makes the task attainable but still requires you to put in some degree of effort.
Ideal Confidence Level = 7
So for the example Action Plan above, you can see how for that person, walking one block every other day is way too easy. Therefore, he or she would need to adjust it somehow to make it a tad more challenging:
“I want to walk one block every day at 6 in the morning, and my confidence level is an 8.”
Once you get used to Action Planning, you’ll find that this is a very useful and practical technique to help you achieve the goals you want to reach in almost every area of your life. You’ll find that as this becomes more second nature to you, you will start to mentally approach all your daily tasks in this way, and you will be surprised at how much you get accomplished on a regular basis.
Now, it’s your turn to make your own Action Plan. What will you do this week? Use the printable Action Plan Tracker below to get started.
Here’s to planning your way to success!
*The information in this post can be found in Being Empowered for a Healthy Heart: A personal guide to taking control of your health while living with chronic conditions, by Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH.