This is a great time of year to work on your health. In fact, no matter what time of year you’re reading this, now is a great time to work on your health! If you just rolled your eyes or hovered your cursor over the “X” button in the top right … hold on. When I say, “work on your health,” I certainly do not mean go on a restrictive diet, do something that feels miserable for you, or deprive yourself of all the joy in life.
In fact, I think health goals can bring joy to life! One of my favorite quotes is, “It’s not about the goal. It’s about growing to become the person that can accomplish the goal,” by Tony Robbins. I am a better person (and I think you are, too!) when I have something that I’m working for. I have more enthusiasm for life, more desire to try, more energy to serve others … when I am working on something for myself, too. And what is there more worthy to work on for ourselves than our health?
So, how do we make working on our health more fun? The simplest, but admittedly frustrating, answer is: it depends. Find what works for you. Think about a time when you reached a goal – any goal, a business goal, a relationship goal, a financial goal, and think about what it took to get there. As closely as possible, try to replicate that process with your health goals! I’m going to give you plenty of ideas below.
Here are my top 10 ways to make working on your health goals fun!
- Challenge yourself. If you’re the type of person who skips right over the 5K and 10K and signs up for the half marathon on your first race, this one is for you. Signing up for a race, challenging a friend to a friendly competition to see who can reach their goal first, or setting a streak goal (e.g. “I will do a 1-minute plank every day for 30 days”) can keep you motivated and give you a finish line to dream about. Just be sure that you start planning your next challenge as soon as you finish the current one, so you don’t lose momentum!
- Focus on something other than the scale. If the first thing that comes to mind when you think about health goals is the scale, think again. Look, the scale is a real unit of measure, and for some people, it works great (this post talks all about when and how to weigh yourself for best success!). But even if the weight on the scale is part of your ultimate goal, try to focus on something else along the way. The scale is prone to daily fluctuations and is only part of the picture (hello, muscle gains!), so a sole focus here makes health a lot less fun.
- Enlist a friend. Calling all extroverts! If you thrive on human interaction, trying to achieve your health goals alone is going to feel like a slog. Instead, ask a friend to come along on the journey with you, or set up social interactions to make the process of working on your health more fun! I have a client who has a different friend to walk with 6 days per week, and another who participates in a healthy meal exchange each week as a way to socialize and make healthy cooking (and eating!) more fun. Be creative, but don’t feel like you have to do it alone.
- Give yourself gold stars and smiley faces. No, really. If you’re one of those crazy (kidding! It’s me, too!) people who puts things on the to do list just to cross them off, this one is for you! I love making different progress trackers with my clients. For some, I give different point values for different tasks, and challenge them to reach 100 points for the week. For others, I have each task light up a different color on their tracker when they complete it and challenge them to light up the rainbow. For still others, I have them draw different symbols like smiley faces, stars, and hearts, to decorate their trackers with all of the amazing progress they’ve made over the week. Sure, this stuff can feel silly, but that little student inside many of us still loves to get the gold star. If that’s you, feed it! Set up systems to allow yourself to reward yourself abundantly.
- Measure the process, not only the results. You are in direct control over how many glasses of wine you drink per week, but you’re not in direct control of your resulting hours of deep sleep or pounds on the scale. You are in direct control of whether you write in your gratitude journal each day, but you’re not in direct control of how many anxiety episodes you have each week. So even though the end result (the deep sleep, scale, or anxiety) is what you’re going for, if you’re not in direct control, I encourage you to set your goal around the process steps. That way, the onus is squarely on you, and you can celebrate a victory once you’ve done everything within your control.
- Rely on willpower less. If you’re trying to force yourself to do something every day, it won’t last forever. But if you set up your environment so that you love working on your goal, the motivation goes a lot further! If you’re trying to commit to working out, invest in a new workout wardrobe that makes you feel great, and have fun picking out the next day’s workout gear before you go to bed. Keep it laid out, so you’ll see it and get excited as soon as you wake up! If you’re trying to eat more veggies, have them readily available and at eye level in the refrigerator. You may even try cutting them into fun shapes, trying new healthy dips, or keeping a tally of how many new vegetables you can try. Set your environment up in a fun way so you don’t have to only rely on willpower to reach your goal.
- Make your progress visible every day. Look, if you have a goal of losing 50 pounds (or gaining visible abs, or anything related to the scale or how you look), you’re not going to see a physical difference in the mirror every single day. This can be demotivating to those of us who like to see So, I suggest having a progress metric that is very visible every day. One idea I’ve heard is to get a mason jar and put a dried bean or cotton ball in the jar for every pound you lose or every trip you make to the gym. One bean doesn’t look like much, but you’ll slowly see the beans accumulate and feel proud every single day! Plus, you can keep a jar of beans on the kitchen counter or a jar of cotton balls in the bathroom without anyone knowing about your secret!
- Set mini rewards. No, I don’t mean a Snickers bar (although, come to think of it, if that’s truly what does it for you, I say go for it every once in a while!). Having something to look forward to along the road to your ultimate goal can be incredibly motivating and keep the process fun! Often, I’ll encourage clients to take a half day of PTO, spend an at-home pampering day, order in a week of healthy meals instead of having to cook, or buy a new book as mini rewards on the way to their goals. Think of what feels fun and rewarding to you and see if you can work it into your budget!
- Have a “word” for the goal. Have you ever heard of people setting a “word” for the year? My word for 2020 is ikigai, which is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” It’s all about finding the intersection between what you’re good at, what you love, what the world needs, and what you can be paid for. When I set this as my word for the year, I went all in. I got a bracelet engraved with the word, I set it as my computer background, and I wrote it about it in my journal. Having a focus really helped me achieve the feeling I set out to feel this year (even with all that 2020 threw our ways!), and I believe you can achieve the same by having a “word” for your health goal. Maybe “free,” “confident,” “indestructible,” or “balanced?” Try a few out and see what fits for you!
- Visualize the future improved version of yourself. If you’re a helper, a change-maker, an enneagram 1, think about how you can better serve the world when you’re your healthiest self. If you’re a sentimental, family person, think about running up to your grandchildren on their graduation days or celebrating your 70th wedding anniversary. If you’re an achiever (hello, fellow enneagram 3’s!), think about how you’ll be able to accomplish more when your health isn’t holding you back in the way it is now. Whatever future version of yourself lights you up and excites you, tap into that vision. Close your eyes and try to feel the way you want to feel in the future. Get as specific as possible, and practice this as often as possible. Research shows that when we’re able to more fully connect with a future vision of ourselves, we’re more likely to achieve what it takes to get there.
Now it’s your turn … How do you make working on health goals fun? Which tip above are you excited to try?