Motivation Articles

Plan Today, Succeed Tomorrow

4 Ways to Think Two Steps Ahead

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Athletes do it. Chess players do it. Novelists, successful scientists and even salespeople do it. These days, everyone who wants to make big things happen is planning ahead in order to succeed. What about you? When it comes to planning ahead to reach your goals, are you falling in line or falling behind?

Thinking ahead can help you achieve your goals and, even more importantly, bounce back faster when you’re met with unexpected failures or setbacks.
 
What can you do today to make sure your health and fitness goals are met tomorrow? Maybe you need to pack a lunch to avoid that daily fast food fix, stock your pantry with healthy snacks so you have something to munch on, make a new bedtime routine so you get all the shut-eye you need, or sleep in your workout clothes so you’ll have no excuse to miss a morning workout.
 
Thinking "two steps ahead" means utilizing the present to make it easier to achieve your goals in the future. What are you waiting for? Here’s how to do it now, before you waste a few more minutes or lose your motivation altogether.
 
Think about Your Actions
Take some time to envision yourself reaching your long-term goal, whether it's losing 40 pounds, running a 5K, or reducing your cholesterol. All of these big goals can (and should!) be broken down into specific behaviors that will increase your health and wellness. Losing 40 pounds may involve reducing and tracking your calories while also starting a consistent fitness program. Running a 5K starts with your first step, then requires a plan to slowly build endurance over several weeks. And reducing your cholesterol can happen when you make heart-smart food choices and increase your daily activity.
 
Taking it a step further, each of these action steps requires a plan or "mini goal" if you're going to achieve it.  Maybe you'll aim for a specific number of exercise minutes per week, servings of fruits and vegetables per day, or miles per month. Achieving these goals is easier when you start thinking ahead and formulating a process that fits into your schedule. When you spell out exactly what you’re working on, it will be so much easier to track progress toward your mini-goals and stay on course toward your bigger goals.
 
Head Off Potential Hurdles: Prepare Your Plan B
You’ve planned to exercise three times a week and you're sticking with your program really well. Your workout wardrobe is freshly laundered. You’ve commandeered a babysitter during your evening runs. Best of all, you've scheduled your exercise sessions like appointments in your calendar. You're doing great.
 
But all of a sudden, a giant work project is dropped in your lap and you realize you’ll need to work from home every night this week to meet the deadline. Sound familiar?
 
Whether it's a nasty flu virus, a change in your partner’s work schedule, or a car in the shop, there will always be obnoxious and unexpected hurdles that can spring up and ruin your best laid plans. You can either wait for them to derail you or you can think ahead about all the possible scenarios that might get in the way of your goals—and plan how to tackle them in advance.
 
As soon as you’ve set mini goals for the week and put your commitments on the calendar, the next thing you should focus on is finding room for flexibility. Maybe you can pencil in a morning workout on the weekend as a backup plan, or make a list of healthy take-out options in case you find yourself in a dinnertime crunch. And if you have trouble resisting those donuts in the office break room, you’d better be sure to pack nutritious and delicious mid-morning snacks in your bag. Having a plan B in place before you need it means you're thinking strategically and will be more likely to stay on track.
 
Commit...and Don’t Quit
Committing to any lifestyle change takes time and continued effort. If you’re having trouble implementing your strategic plan (and plan B's), here are some strategies that will help you sidestep obstacles that may arise.
  • Make your commitments public so that everyone around you knows the goals you’re working toward. If your boss, partner and friends have all heard you profess your plan, they’ll be more likely to support you (or at least they’ll know what you’re up to)--and you'll be more likely to stick with it to save face.
     
  • Engage your friends and family in some friendly fitness activities. Get your colleagues involved in an exercise challenge, start a walking club after work, or put together a neighborhood gardening group. If you can encourage others to join your wellness quest, you’ll be more likely to remember your commitments. Plus, you may even plant the seeds for others’ health and fitness success.
     
  • Keep track of your achievements. Sometimes, when you’re working hard to fit healthy habits into your schedule, it can feel like the rest of the world is against you. Seeing the progress you make toward your own goals will help you notice change and stay true to your healthy self—even in the event that you mess up. Log your workouts online, track your calories and H2O intake, and draw smiley faces on your calendar when you finish each yoga class. Keeping track will remind you how far you've come, which can help you keep the faith when life gets in the way of your best intentions.
Make Friends with Failure
Even after you’ve set benchmarks for success, put a halt on potential hurdles, and prepared a plan B, you can still be sure that the road to health and fitness won’t always be smooth and straight. A storm will sweep in overnight and ruin your morning run. That family road trip will be wrought with tempting treats at truck stops. Though these problems may seem counterproductive, getting familiar with failure can be helpful in its own way. When you experience a succession of small setbacks or changes in course, it helps you hone your skills at dealing with issues that are outside of your control.


Even the greatest athletes and strategic planners in the world fail—sometimes badly and sometimes publicly. But those who are great don't let failure define them or stop them. They set goals, plan ahead to avoid or minimize mishaps, and get back up and keep going when things don't go according to plan. They roll with the punches—and you can, too!

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Member Comments

  • PACE - Plan, Act, Check, Evolve.

    Make your plan -- it's your map moving forward.

    Make an action plan based on what you want to accomplish.

    Set up benchmarks to check your progress.

    Evolve! Don't be afraid to tweak or even change things as you need to.

    Have to do this every day!
  • have a plan B ready at all times... good thought!
  • NOW THIS IS A GREAT ARTICLE. IT'S REALISTIC AND POINTS OUT POTENTIAL ROADBLOCKS AND THEN OFFERS SUGGESTIONS. STILL IT IS REALLY UNLIKELY THAT YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT IS GOING TO CARE ... UNLESS YOU WORK ON A CAMPUS THAT OFFERS A FITNESS FACILITY. I'VE BEEN LUCKY WITH THAT MOST OF MY CAREER - NOT ONLY DID THEY HAVE IT, THEY GAVE YOU TIME TO USE IT AS PART OF THE WORK DAY - PROOF, YOUR ID WAS NEEDED TO SWIPE IN.
  • It seems so obvious, but this is exactly what I have been doing wrong. I can't believe I haven't spotted it before. Thanks for this article.
  • Great article. I saved it.
  • KAYYAK1
    I have such trouble staying motivated. This article gave me some inspiration for a while at least.
  • good mantra for me - commit and don't quit.
  • I like the "Commit.... and Don't Quit" part. That has been my problem in the past. I gain, then lose and after I lose quit. I don't know why. Even the last major time I lost weight I had gotten 9 pounds away from my ultimate goal. Then I started working 2nd shift, eating crappy and stopped working out. Well I gained most of it back. But NOW.... I need to keep this in mind and make it my new mantra.... COMMIT, DON'T QUIT!!!!! Thanks!! ;o)
  • Glad to hear from you TaxiKent from Galveston. Glad you picked up the book from a garage sale. Hope it gives you back more than you paid for it.
  • Great timing. I have had some obstacles in my paths lately, and I have also found my motivation slipping a little. Thanks!
  • This article is a really good one. I tend to be to hard on myself anytime I mess up on my diet or exercise, which leads to disappointment and discouragement. This article helped me realize it happens to the best of us! Very encouraging to not give up and keep doing your best. Thanks!
  • LISACC55
    Hi Taxikent.
    I live in Friendswood.
    How are you
  • Hi, I'm new and would like to correspond with anyone still living in order to keep me motivated. I'm new to spark. Found the book in a garage sale, no less.
    I'm taxikent in Galveston, TX. I haven't explored this site yet, but will.
  • Writing goals consistently, and marking progress are a good practice. I do not do this as I should although I track, I never really mark progress. I will try this and hope to become more aware and proud of the steps I have taken,.
  • My goals entail both losing 40lbs AND having the endurance to run a 5k! Im terrible at running, and would like to improve.

    It's easy for life to get in my way. Between work and school, I remain fairly busy. However, I do my best to get in my workouts, and avoid the unhealthy foods on campus and in my workplace.

About The Author

Megan Coatley Megan Coatley
Megan is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with a masterís degree in applied behavior analysis from Western Michigan University. As a health and wellness coach, she combines her passion for nutrition and fitness with her professional talents to help others creative positive, lasting change and live healthier lives.