It can be easy to lose sight of why you want to make health behavior changes. If you don’t keep the big picture in mind, you can end up making small daily decisions that don’t line up with what you want for your life. A wellness vision gives you a defined goal to work towards, and a clearer picture of what you need to do to reach that goal. A good wellness vision gives you a framework for coming up with steps to reach your goals, and helps to empower you and keep you motivated. It can be the inspiration to choose a 20 minute walk instead of a rerun TV show on Netflix and each small choice like that can bring you closer to realizing your wellness vision.
Creating a wellness vision is helpful because it gives you the opportunity to explore your values, your strengths, and helps you identify your own individual bigger reasons for making a change. Generally, these reasons lead back to either something you love or someone you love. If the new habit itself were easy and fun, you’d probably already be doing it. If the habit or lifestyle change is challenging or new for us, we all need a more motivating and internal reason for sticking with it.
For example, let’s say you want to watch your meal portion sizes so you can lose some weight. While surface-deep reasons, such as “I want to lose 10 pounds so I look better,” may help you stick with it for a little while, it’s important to find a reason that is more meaningful to you. Everyone’s reason is individual. Maybe for you that reason is something like: “I want to lose 10 pounds and keep it off, so that I can reduce my risk for developing diabetes, so that I can be there for my kids and my grandkids as they grow up.”
If you keep that bigger picture in mind with your day-to-day decisions, you know WHY you are making that change and can choose what’s more important to you.
To help you create your own wellness vision, we’ve outlined a step-by-step process from Holly Sullivan, Registered Dietitian and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, for you to try below.
How-To Guide for Creating Your Own Wellness Vision
Grab a pen and a notebook or some paper. Set aside some time to work through this step-by-step process. And if you’d like to listen to Holly’s companion webinar to guide you as you work through each step, you can view and listen to her webinar at www.MScenter.org/empower.
Start by thinking about this question: What’s important to you? Write down what comes to mind. These can be either intrinsic values like a sense of accomplishment, inner harmony, and family security, or personal characteristics that you value about yourself like being imaginative, capable, and responsible. For more examples of values and characteristics, watch Holly’s webinar mentioned above.
Next, write down relationships that are important to you or the people who will help you with your goals:
Now, Remember Your Successes…Write down times when you’ve been successful.
What Got You There: Your Strengths.
What are some of your strengths that helped contribute to your successes?
What Are You Already Doing For Your Health Now:
What Elements of Your Health and Well-Being Do You Want to Work on Now?
Here are some prompts to help you get started.
I really need to start….
I would feel better if I….
To be healthier I want to…
Envision Your Ideal Best Self
Now, take a moment to close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Envision what you picture your ideal best self to be. It doesn’t have to be next week or next month. It could be a year from now or five years from now. Take some time to picture a time when you’re happy, feeling well, and what that would look like and feel like for you. Once you have that picture, think about the actions, behaviors, and habits that your ideal best self would be doing to achieve that vision. Take some time to think about that and write down your thoughts
Now we are going to put all of those pieces together to spell out your wellness vision:
Complete the following sentence in the present tense.
I am (fill in with your actions) so that (fill in with the results that you want).
Examples: “I’m not drinking coffee after 2 pm and I’m going to bed by 9:30 each night so that I have more energy during the day.” OR “I’m sneaking in more physical activity throughout the day, so that I’m exercising more and feeling more energetic to spend more quality time with my grandkids.” OR “I am watching my portion sizes and not eating past the point of fullness so that I feel good about my weight.”
This sentence is the articulation of your wellness vision. Read your wellness statement out loud and see how it feels to you. It should be a motivating statement, so be sure to re-work as much as you need to so that it feels good, energizing, and inspiring to you.
The next step is to identify the steps are you willing to take in the next week.
Make your steps SMART Goals. SMART goals are:
Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound
Example: Starting on Monday, I’m going to add one cup of baby carrots to my lunch three times a week.
What Will Help You?
Think about something that is going to help you with your goal. Look back at your strengths and your relationships that you wrote down earlier. Is there a person who can help you with your goal? Is there a personal characteristic or strength that you can use to help you achieve your goal? Maybe it’s having an accountability buddy, or asking your spouse to pick up healthy food at the store for you, or using one of your strengths as a hard worker and a planner to help you toward your goal. Write down the things that will help you.
What is Something that Might Get In Your Way and How Might You Overcome That Challenge?
The last thing to do is to think about something that might get in your way – an obstacle or barrier that might make it more difficult to achieve your goal. And how might you use one of your strengths or a person in your life to overcome that barrier. Then write down your thoughts.
Taking the time to reflect on what is important to you will help you create a clear wellness vision. Linking the healthy behavior changes that you want to make to the things that are most important to you will help inspire you when you are faced with a choice between something that is easy but won’t get you closer to the lifestyle you want, and something that is a bit harder but will move you forward. Just as important will be thinking through possible obstacles and the solutions for them ahead of time. Be sure to keep your written plan in a visible place and look at it often, maybe hang it on your bathroom mirror. You can always do this exercise again as your vision and goals change.
If you’ve identified some healthy actions that you’d like to make into long term habits, check out another webinar in the Empower Series “Sticking with it – Real Life Strategies to Help You Form and Keep Healthier Habits” found at www.MSCenter.org/empower.
And, if you’re having trouble drilling down to a really motivating reason for making a healthy change, check out the “5 Whys” worksheet on mscenter.org/empower. This exercise will help you keep asking why until you know your intrinsic and deeply personal motivation.
This article is part of the Rocky Mountain MS Center’s EMPOWER MS Educational Series, which includes articles, webinars and more on related topics. For more information, please visit MSCenter.org/empower.