Making healthy changes is about hard work. It’s about patience and taking your time. It’s about getting the support you need. But do you know what it’s not about? Becoming something you’re not.
It’s possible to work toward your health goals without changing into a whole different person. The key is to tap into the strengths you already have.
How old goal setting can fall short
New Year’s resolutions. We’ve all heard of them. Many of us have even set them. But if you’re like most people, you’ve started a new habit in January only to fall off track a couple months (or even a couple weeks) later.
A 2016 study showed that only 9% of people who set New Year’s resolutions were able to stick to their new habits or goals by the end of the year.
Why wouldn’t a resolution work? Maybe it’s a lack of preparation. Perhaps it’s an issue with finding support. But it might also be that resolutions focus too much on one big idea: transformation.
It sounds great in theory. But that idea can get way too daunting. It becomes all about our weaknesses and correcting something that’s “wrong” with us.
Thankfully, you don’t have to become someone else entirely to live a healthy life! We can focus on what we already do right.
After decades of research, social work experts have coined a method called a strengths-based approach (or “SBA”). This is a clinical way of setting goals and pinpointing the best traits you have to help you achieve those goals.
In the case of your health, you can take bits and pieces from a strengths-based approach to help you adopt new, healthy habits!
How focusing on strengths helps you
Focusing on your strengths rather than your weaknesses can help you:
- Build self-esteem
- Be kind to yourself while you work hard
- Build resilience
- Face challenges rather than run away from them
- Support others
- Feel in control of your goals—and accept what you can’t control
Examples of using your strengths
It’s easy to dwell on our flaws. Sometimes that even pushes us to set goals in the first place. But it’s more helpful—and kinder to yourself—to set goals out of self-care, not out of self-hate.
Here are some common goals people set with examples of using your strengths to achieve them.
- Losing weight
- Strength approach: “I really love cooking. And I’m good at it! I’ll make healthy meals at least four times a week. That can help me lose 10 pounds this year.”
- Quitting smoking
- Strength approach: “I have a rebellious streak. That’s what got me started smoking in the first place. But I can use that inner rebel to fight against my urges to smoke—and against the tobacco company that got me hooked!”
- Exercising more
- Strength approach: “Changing my routine is tough. But I did it before when my kids were young. I can do it again! I’ll get up a little earlier to get in some steps.”
- Relieving stress
- Strength approach: “My friends tell me I’m really good at hyping them up. Maybe I could do the same thing for myself and encourage myself to meditate for a couple minutes each day.”
- Managing blood sugar
- Strength approach: “I’m the best planner in our family. We have dinner on the table every night because of me. I can use those same planning skills to check my blood sugar at least every morning.”
You’re even more likely to stick to your goals when they are:
- Relevant, and
Check out our easy guide on how to make sure your goals are SMART.
And remember, you’ve got what it takes to make a new, healthy habit! You don’t need to become someone else—you can just do things a little differently to see some big results.