Why setting goals may not lead to taking action

How ready are you to make the changes to your health that you would like to?

Health Breaks

Sometimes there’s a gap between what we want to achieve and actually doing something about it. Often intentions do not align with actions. This can be due to your stage of readiness.

First, consider a goal you would really like to achieve with your health. You may have been thinking about this for a while or it could be a new goal. Let’s consider the Stages of Readiness to identify potential gaps between intention and action.

In this phase, someone else probably thinks you should change but you don’t agree, don’t want to or don’t care. In your Health Wheel Survey, you may have identified that the area isn’t going well. But you may also have chosen “Low Importance” to do anything about it yet. This will mean you won’t have set a goal in this area at this time. You are turning a blind eye – by choice.

Contemplation Phase
Here you are thinking about doing something but need some help or some convincing. You may not be sure where to start. There are many barriers in your head, like “it’s too hard……I’ll fail…. I’m too old….I don’t have the time”. If this is you, set a goal to find out more information and decide the first action needed that enables you to gain help in the immediate term (next 1-2 weeks). This initial goal is not about the action you want to implement (i.e. get fit), it’s about assessing and weighing up options and finding the information and resources you need to look at options.

“There are many barriers in your head, like “it’s too hard……I’ll fail…. I’m too old….I don’t have the time”.”

Action phase
Now you are ready to set a goal about taking the first step towards implementing your goal.

Setting a small goal, an action that you are able to do within a very short term and adding further small goals one by one may be necessary until you start to adapt to this ‘new normal’. For example, if your goal is to ‘get fit’, then setting a goal to run a marathon may not be realistic. Instead, it may include walking 3 times a week with one minute of running every 5 minutes.

Within the action phase there are small sub phases to watch for.
Phase 1: Initially change feels unnatural and hard work, the desire to give up is strong. After a period, you adapt and the action is easier. You also start to find that the action becomes enjoyable for its own sake.
Phase 2: It’s possible to feel a plateau – boredom, no continued improvement, and no excitement.

Within this sub-phase, people who are taking action, but want to do more may be move into  Maintenance Phase.

Setting goals that stretch and extend your comfort zone are needed in maintenance phase. Motivation and purpose may need to be addressed. This can be achieved by finding flow in the action – enjoyment of the action for the sake of the action rather than the outcome. For instance, back to the running example. In maintenance you can start focusing on increasing the enjoyment of the action. Create a playlist of your favourite songs, take a run in nature, run with a group, buy some jazzy running outfits and so on.
Setting goals connected to deepening the purpose and increasing the enjoyment of the action can be the focus.

Task for you:

  • Write down an area of health you want to improve.
  • Now record the outcome you want to achieve.
  • Next, consider, with honesty, how ready you feel to actually take action now.
  1. Decide your stage of readiness
  2. Set the action steps that align with your readiness

Take the first step towards Taking Action by joining the Health Breaks Coaching Program.

Author: Kristin McMaster, Director, Health Breaks – encouraging employees to take a break for their health daily