Who exactly are you dealing with?

One Step Closer Week 2

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Making a solid goal – one that you stand a chance of fulfilling – requires knowing exactly who you are dealing with. Who is this person that’s going to exercise and meditate every day? How has this sort of thing gone in the past? Where exactly have they fallen down before? And what is their life like now in so far as things that will interfere with carrying out this plan? All of that stuff has to be carefully factored into a goal’s structure in order to keep the whole thing from falling apart once the initial enthusiasm passes through.

Doing this honest self-examination is all part of the process of making a SMART goal – a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-bound. I’ll use one of my pandemic-related steps I’m working on to demonstrate.

A piece of my pandemic step story
My goal is to exercise before I eat breakfast instead of after. It’s important to know that I don’t want to do this at all. I like to get up and ease into my day with a cup of coffee while unloading the dishwasher and making lunches, after which I will have another cup of coffee with my toast while I read. But now that I have pandemic anxiety-induced reflux (thanks, COVID), if I want to exercise in the morning this is what I have to do. And I do want to exercise in the morning because it’s one of my key anxiety management tools.

For that reason alone, exercising before breakfast is most definitely a smart thing to do. As for how SMART it’s been set up…here’s what that looks like:
 
  • Specific -- It’s already pretty specific (exercise before breakfast), but I can make it even more specific by specifying that I will do this Monday – Friday. The weekend exercise is strictly walking so, yay, I get to eat breakfast first on those two days, which also makes the plan more realistic.
     
  • Measurable -- Defined in this specific way it is most definitely measurable since I can clearly calculate how many of the 5 days I managed to complete my goal.
     
  • Achievable -- Is it? Well, this is where it gets very problematic so more on that in a moment.
     
  • Relevant --Yes, eating breakfast after exercise definitely aligns with my overarching goal of both exercising in the morning and getting this reflux under control so I can get my life back.
     
  • Time-bound --Have I qualified it in a way that binds it to time? Yes, indeed. It will happen at before-breakfast o’clock Monday through Friday.
 
The rub
As I said, Achievable is where the real rub is. It will be hard to take consistent action on this when I really don’t want to change my ways even though I do very much want the benefit. This is where I’m really going to have to figure out how to take some friction away. The friction stems from two sore points:
  1. Really wanting to ease into my day, and
     
  2. Really having a hard time delaying the deliciousness of breakfast.

The fix
Here’s how I figured out how to bring the volume down on those two trouble areas:
  1. To ease into my day, I do part of my kitchen routine by making my partner’s lunch (I know, it’s very 50s but that’s how I show my love). This gives me a little buffer between rolling out of bed and exercising while also sidestepping the inevitable tension of getting Gary’s lunch made before he needs to get out the door which he does super early.
     
  2. To compensate for delaying breakfast, I secretly take two bites of Gary’s sandwich. I accomplish this by cutting the sandwich on the vertical instead of the diagonal, taking care to cut one side smaller so I can cut a sly little sliver off the wider half. (As far as I know Gary is none the wiser, but he’s so nice and so unterritorial about food that I’m almost positive he wouldn’t mind. He always gives me bites of anything I want.) Two bites is enough to give me a sense of breakfast without pushing me over into reflux territory once I start downward dogging or jumping around.
In this way I’d say I have reduced the friction by a good 70%. I still don’t want to exercise before breakfast but it’s do-able.

Keys to step success
Knowing who you are dealing with, getting very specific on your plan and taking the friction volume down as much as you can is key. But knowing who you are dealing with isn’t just spotting your weak links. As Judith Josiah-Martin, an instructor at the University of Maine’s School of Social Work said in a recent Northern Light panel discussion on minority health, being the author of your own health and wellbeing is also about identifying what you have that’s working for you and what you have that you can build on. That is so true and an incredibly powerful and positive position to take. What do you have that’s working for you? What can you build on?

Now you
This is the week to take some time to SMARTen up the step you are taking. Spend some time specifically writing out your goal in SMART form.

If you’re on the Accountability Track, here’s the link to update your progress for the week. While you get the benefit of accountability, the rest of us get a rich opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our co-workers’ experiences and probably see ourselves reflected in your words, as well, so thank you for that! 

Speaking of enlarging our understanding, I’m so delighted to introduce this week’s One Step Closer employees. Meet Amanda Smith, an environmental technician at EMMC, Carol Pinney, an RN for Home Care and Hospice, and Lisa Gordon, a PA from Work Health and Walk-In Care. Thank you so much for generously letting us in on your experience.

Questionnaire Clarification
To clear up the question of whether you need to turn the questionnaire in, you don’t. It’s a tool to help you clarify the most meaningful and actionable step you could take right now to recover a greater sense of wellbeing which I don’t need because at the end of the program you will tell me all about your greatest challenge, the step you took and what you were able to accomplish when you fill out the completion survey.