Personal transformation starts with a healthy goal

BLOOMINGTON, Minn.—Every successful person or motivational speaker talks about the importance of having goals. It sounds easy, but setting and achieving goals requires some discipline in both thought and action, according to Rosie Ward, MPH, CHES, director of health and wellness at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington, Minn.

“How many times have you set a goal for yourself?” Ward asks. “How many times have you failed to achieve a goal? Now, think about someone you know who could be described as goal-oriented and always seems to be achieving goals. What is different about them? Successful goals move beyond an unrealistic declarative statement to be specific blueprints for how you will reach your final destination. Dreaming is fine, but if you don’t have a clear plan of how to make that dream a reality, nothing will change.” Ward offers these tips for setting yourself up for success in meeting your goals for 2007:

Be specific but realistic. Dreams are big and broad; goals are specific, says Ward. “If you say you want to lose weight, you are being too vague,” she says. “However, saying you want to lose 10 pounds provides more structure, but saying you want to lose the weight in a week is not realistic.”

Write down your goal. A goal stuck in your head might as well not exist. You need to write it down and look at it often. “When you write down your goal, also write down what value that goal provides in your life so you don’t lose sight of the clarity that led to the goal in the first place.”

Be positive. The key to success is to write your goal in the positive rather than in the negative; write your goal as moving toward something you want rather than away from something you don’t want. “Rather than saying, ‘I want to get out of debt,’ try something like ‘I will improve my credit score by x points.’”

Create your plan. Once you have your goal written down, you need to start creating a specific plan for achieving it; consider this your blueprint or roadmap. “Break it down to what you can do each day to move towards your goal,” says Ward. “Only you can decide how much time that is each day, but make it part of your life. You need to schedule time for your goal just like other areas of your life.”

Get support. “Making a change and striving towards something takes energy,” says Ward. “Sometimes yours will be low. What kind of support do you need in order to keep you going towards your goal? Perhaps you need to simply tell some people and ask them to periodically check in with you.”

Determine your markers for success. If you can’t measure your success, then try re-wording your goal. A good goal is one that allows you to measure your success and your progress.

Be flexible. “Sometimes your original goal may not have been quite right for you,” says Ward. “It may have been too small, or it may have been too big, vague or unrealistic. You can either beat yourself up because it’s not looking exactly as you planned, or you can go back to your blueprint and make some revisions. The point is not to sell yourself short but to set yourself up for success.”

Celebrate. Determine how you will reward yourself once you’ve achieved your final goal. However, don’t forget to reward your smaller success along the way. “Give yourself credit for the successes; this will help keep you moving forward toward what is most important to you,” says Ward.

For additional resources on setting goals, visit, a Web site focusing on natural approaches to health and wellness hosted by Northwestern Health Sciences University.

From the Feb. 21-27, 2007, issue

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