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Feel better with help from personal health goals

August 8, 2022 - 15 min read

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What are personal health goals?

3 types of personal health goals

Why are health goals important?

How to achieve health goals

Make your health your priority

Every New Year’s Eve, many of us commit to health goals for the next 365 days. Maybe we want to lose weight, eat healthier, or meditate more often.

But then February 1 rolls around. A special day for a different reason: it’s when most Americans abandon their resolutions, according to a 2020 study. And 68% give up earlier than that.

Most people drop their resolutions due to low self-discipline and a busy schedule. And maybe you can relate. 

Sure, you want to run on the treadmill for 20 minutes this morning. But you have to wake up, dress yourself, prepare your kids’ lunches, make sure they eat breakfast, dress them up for school, get them on the bus, drive to work, and… the list goes on.

And by the end of the day, the stresses of work zapped all your energy. So you wait until tomorrow to start all over again.

It’s a lot! But there are simple ways to achieve a healthier lifestyle. And doing so will reduce risk factors for your health, boost your energy, and increase your motivation. 

That’s where personal health goals can help. Find out exactly what personal health goals are, along with how to achieve them.  

What are personal health goals?

Goals, loosely defined, are desired outcomes that wouldn’t occur without your intervention. You can’t achieve them without input. 

Personal health goals are outcomes you desire for your personal health. 

This definition might sound obvious, but let’s linger on it. There’s beauty in its simplicity. Health goals extend beyond just your physical health — you can focus on other kinds, too. Your mental, financial, and social health all fall under this umbrella.

It also means you can adjust the distance of your target. While this may feel like cheating, it’s really not. To succeed with health goals, start with targets you can actually hit so you don’t lose motivation. 

Let’s demonstrate with an example. If you’re playing basketball, would you prefer to sink five free throws in a row or score one three-pointer and airball the rest? 

The free throws would surely feel more satisfying, even if they’re more accessible. And you would probably feel motivated to keep throwing instead of getting discouraged and giving up. 

You’re in the driver’s seat here. There’s no shame in finding an easier road to go down. Even the smallest goals can improve your health and wellbeing.

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3 types of personal health goals

As mentioned earlier, many things fall under “personal health.” Here are the types of goals for you to consider:

Nutritional goals

Goals about your diet can include:

  • Aiming to eat healthier 
  • Drinking more water
  • Not skipping breakfast
  • Controlling your portions
  • Eating at the table instead of in front of the TV

Mindful eating — focusing on the entire experience of your meal — will increase the success of an eating habit, like a diet. Studies have also shown that you absorb more nutrients from meals that you enjoy eating, so don’t force yourself to eat kale if you don’t want to. Opt for more vegetables and nutrient-dense foods instead of processed ones, and you’re well on your way. 

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Physical goals

Some potential physical goals could include:

  • Trying a new physical activity
  • Counting your steps
  • Increasing your workout time each week
  • Stretching every day

You can also set small-scale goals to support your overall health, like always taking the stairs.

Mental health goals

You can make a goal to meditate more, show more gratitude, and find time for self-care — all of which can have positive mental health outcomes.

With all three categories of health goals, start small so you don’t get overwhelmed. 

BetterUp can help you discover what’s important in life. Our coaches are trained to help you develop new skills, learn more about yourself, and make changes to maximize your potential.

Why are health goals important?

Health goals have many measurable benefits, including:

  • Having good health
  • Living a long life
  • Increasing your energy
  • Reducing pain and risk of illness
  • Cutting down on stress
  • Losing weight 

But if these reasons alone were good enough, everyone would pursue their health goals. Knowing that exercise is good for heart health isn’t always motivating enough to work out every day.

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In reality, these outcomes mean nothing if they don’t speak to you personally. You have to decide why health goals are important to your life. What will they help you accomplish in the long run?

Answering this question will help you find your motivation.

How to achieve health goals

Once you have your personalized list of health goals, here’s how you can go about achieving them.

1. Use the SMART method

Using this method will help you design your goals more effectively. In doing so, you’re creating better conditions for your success. SMART goals are:

  • Specific: you have a clear picture of your desired outcome
  • Measurable: you have a clear metric to measure your success
  • Attainable: you can accomplish your goal with the skills and resources you have
  • Realistic: your goal is aligned with a larger purpose
  • Time-bound: you have a deadline for achieving your goal

2. Create a trail of breadcrumbs

Your goals should build on the last, inching you toward your final goal. Keep the SMART method in mind while organizing your steps. If one isn’t achievable right away, your preceding goals should work up to it.

For example, if you have a long-term goal of lifting 100 pounds of weight, you need to set smaller goals to build up gradually. Start by upping your weight in 5-pound increments. This progress will keep you motivated and help you stay realistic. 

3. Make your goals fun

Not everyone enjoys the same activities. One person might love the gym, and others might prefer a dance class. Find a type of fitness that fits you and your personality.

You can also give your goals fun names. Instead of “running a mile in eight minutes,” you’re actually “tearing up a mile of city streets in eight minutes or less.”

4. Tie them to a larger purpose

Why do you want a healthy lifestyle? Maybe you want to keep up with your kids, improve your focus at work, or become a better partner. These reasons go beyond the goal itself — they’re tied to a wider purpose. This can be a powerful inspiration when you aren’t in the mood.

5. Focus on one healthy habit at a time

You might want to start meditating, get eight hours of sleep, hit the gym consistently, get more productive at work, and take a weekly Zumba class. That’s a lot to do at once.

It’s best to form one healthy habit at a time. This will make everything feel more manageable, reducing the likelihood of burning yourself out and quitting one month in. Forming a habit takes between 18 and 254 days, so pace yourself accordingly. Set specific goals and take them one at a time.

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6. Reward yourself

Give your brain a reward with a dose of dopamine when you achieve a goal. You can do this by leveraging extrinsic motivators that condition your brain to enjoy a task. 

 This could look like allowing yourself a bowl of ice cream after a breakthrough. And remember that ice cream isn’t inherently unhealthy. You aren’t failing at your goal just because you want a sweet treat.

7. Track your progress

Take advantage of the many daily habit tracker apps available for your phone. Alternatively, you can go old school with a standard pen and paper.

Either way, tracking your progress will help you reflect on how far you’ve come. Doing this will help you stay motivated.

8. Tell people about your goals

You’ve heard that actions speak louder than words. But talking about your goals can help keep you accountable. Don’t be afraid to tell a friend or family what you’re working on.

9. Find a buddy

Pursuing a goal with a friend can also keep you motivated. Whether you’re going to the gym or taking a class together, setting goals with your friends can make the whole experience more fun. 

Plus, you can hold each other accountable, dragging each other out of bed for a workout on tough days.

10. Keep a journal 

Writing and reflecting on your goals can help your motivation. Journaling keeps your ambitions front-and-center, so you don’t forget what you’re working toward.

10 examples of personal health goals

You might be wondering, “What are good health goals?” These examples can inspire you as you think of your own.

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Nutritional goals

1. Eat four plant-based meals per week to lower your environmental impact

2. Drink eight cups of water every day so you can have more energy at work

3. Stop drinking alcohol so you can reduce your weight 

Physical goals

4. Stretch every 40 minutes to prevent back pains at work

5. Try a new workout class every month to keep things fresh in your life

6. Exercise a bit longer every week to build up your endurance

7. Improve your cardio so you can reduce your risk of heart attack

Mental health goals

8. Establish a morning routine so you’re less stressed after you wake up

9. Get more sleep to have more energy in the day

10. Write in your gratitude journal every day so you can have a more positive outlook on life

Make your health your priority

Don’t give up on your New Year’s resolution just yet. You only have one body, and you are already taking steps to take care of it. The only thing left to do is keep going.

Go back and re-evaluate your goals using the tips above. Now that you have a clearer idea of what personal health goals are, you can set yourself up for success with a healthier approach.

BetterUp can help you on your goal-setting journey. Our coaches are equipped to evaluate your needs and offer advice for all areas of your life. Together, we can maximize your potential.

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Published August 8, 2022

Shonna Waters, PhD

Vice President of Alliance Solutions

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