It's easy to get sidetracked from good intentions to make healthy changes. The key is to set yourself up for success before you even get started by changing your mindset and learning how to prioritize your daily activities.

By Amy M. Charland

Think about the last time you committed to making healthy changes. You probably promised yourself that you'd stick with a plan this time and finally reach your goals. But then you got sidetracked or faced an obstacle, and your good intentions went out the window. In addition to blaming a lack of willpower and motivation, you may have concluded that you simply don't have time to be healthy. But by getting creative and learning how to prioritize your daily activities, you might find that you have more time than you think.

The key is to set yourself up for success before you even get started. Here are a few ways to change your mindset so that you can find time to focus on your health.

Write down your top priorities, such as cooking more meals at home, exercising a certain number of days a week, spending time with friends and family, volunteering, or making time for relaxation or hobbies. Now ask yourself, "Why is this a top priority right now?" and "What are the benefits and consequences of making this a top priority now instead of in the next 10, 20 or 30 years?"

It's common to focus on the short term rather than the long term when it comes to managing daily priorities. Thinking about how your current actions will impact your future can give you a different perspective on what is most important and how you want to spend your time. For instance, if you're currently focusing all your time and energy on your career and not on wellness activities, consider the long-term consequences of not taking care of your health right now. You might realize that having a high quality of life in your later years to enjoy retirement and grandchildren is more important than some of your current activities. By reassessing your current activities based on the future you want, you'll be motivated to find time to take care of yourself today.

Most people create stories about how life is based on previous experiences. These stories feel real because you seek out evidence to support the belief while disregarding evidence to the contrary. Over time these beliefs guide your actions.

Take a step back and ask yourself how the story you're telling yourself is influencing your progress toward your goals. For example, the notion that eating healthfully is difficult and time-consuming is a belief — it is not inherently true. And if you take a closer look at this belief, you'll likely find that it's keeping you from achieving your nutrition goals. How? Instead of looking for ways to succeed with food shopping, cooking and eating habits, you waste time and energy focusing on the obstacles at hand. Once you become aware of how your belief is driving your behavior, you can make a conscious decision about what you want to believe.

Most people spend their days in survival mode, focusing on tasks that need to be checked off to-do lists. This can lead to a disconnect between what is most important to you and what you actually spend your time on. You spend time on tasks that don't reflect your values and goals. When your actions don't align with your values, you may feel frustrated, dissatisfied, overwhelmed, unhappy or even ashamed. On the other hand, living in accordance with your values can lead to a sense of well-being, fulfillment and satisfaction. Sure, everyone has "have to's," but it is possible to let your long-term goals guide your daily actions.

Try these experiments to gain time in your day so that you can reach your wellness goals.

  • For a few days, write down everything you do in 15-minute increments — from checking your email to taking out the trash. You might be surprised to find how much time is wasted on tasks that add little value to your life.
  • Write down all of your top priorities, such as cooking more, exercising several times a week, having more family time or advancing in your career. Then ask yourself, "What are the immediate benefits and future consequences of focusing on these things right now?" You'll be able to picture your goals more clearly and reprioritize accordingly.
  • Write out what an ideal day would look like if you were practicing habits that would help you reach your goals. Start living a portion of this ideal day in the present, even if it's simply eating a healthy breakfast at home. You'll be surprised how time opens up for wellness.
Dec. 29, 2016