Setting Goals and Making Changes
Much of diabetes management is based upon the concept of living a healthy lifestyle – and when diagnosed with diabetes, many people are ‘expected’ to make major changes to a lifestyle that has evolved over many years.
Don’t even consider changing habits of a lifetime overnight. Take your time, and be sure that you make the right changes in the right way, so that they are lasting changes that you and your family or whanau are comfortable with.
Making long lasting changes to the way we live our lives is no easy task. It takes will power and determination. If you believe in yourself and know that you can succeed then half the battle is won. You CAN do it!
To be successful, you will also need to understand the circumstances surrounding the changes that need to be made. And you will need support from family and friends. You may also benefit from joining a support group, such as a local Diabetes New Zealand Branch or an Internet-based (e.g. Facebook) support group.
What’s covered on this page
Are you ready to change?
Sometimes we are unable to make changes in our lifestyle because we’re just not ready. There are three stages to go through before you are ready to change:
- Realising that there is a need to make changes in your lifestyle
- Considering the need to make changes
- Deciding to make the changes
Realising the need to change
This is often part and parcel of accepting that you have diabetes and a responsibility towards your future health. You may have had your head buried in the sand for some time – this is a natural resistance to change. During this period many people do not actually consciously realise that there is a real need to change.
Considering the need to change
Having realised that you should make some changes in your lifestyle, you are then faced with the decision of whether or not to make those changes. And if you are to make changes, should you do so sooner or later?
Often people will enter a period of emotional turmoil after diagnosis. It is important that you give yourself a little time to come to terms with your new situation before trying to make drastic changes to the way you live your life. However, don’t let this become an excuse for not making the changes.
Deciding to change
Deciding to make a change (or some changes) is a very positive thing and it is often associated with a ‘turning-point’ in people’s lives. When you get to this stage you should congratulate yourself, for you’ve already come a long way.
Making the change – what’s involved?
It helps if we break down the process of ‘change’ into different stages:
- Identifying what exactly needs to be changed
- Defining your goals
- Working towards achieving your goals
- Building on your short term goals
- Maintaining the change
Identifying what needs to be changed
The first task then, is to consider what your desirable outcomes might be (see table); then the second task is to work out what needs to be changed.
These are too vague to be goals, but should provide motivation.
A goal must be achievable and therefore needs to have a defined ‘end-point’ so that you know when you have achieved it.
If there is more than one thing (there usually is!), then make a list. Set your points out in order of priority, with the most important things first. If you are unsure about this, then ask a member of your diabetes team for guidance. Tackle the points on your list one at a time, starting at the top.
Defining your goals
This is an important step and needs some serious thought. Your goals must be realistic and achievable in the short term. You must be able to visualise yourself (or your life) as it will be when you succeed in making the change.
Your goals must be precise so that you know what you are working towards and you know when you have achieved them. They should be based on a positive action, rather than a negative statement. For example, “I will eat fruit for snacks”, rather than “I won’t eat chocolate for snacks”.
Bear the following in mind when you are defining your goals:
- Your personality and lifestyle
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- Current problems either directly or indirectly associated (‘barriers’ to change)
- Available support
Enlist the help of your diabetes team. They will be able to guide you. You should discuss, negotiate and agree upon your goals. For clinical targets (e.g. blood glucose or HbA1c levels) it is essential that your goals are set and agreed upon by the whole team (including yourself, of course).
Working towards achieving your goals
Having identified what needs to be changed and set yourself a target, there is nothing for it but to get started! Changing behaviour is not easy and you will probably need to draw on some hidden reserves – but you will be surprised at how much strength you actually have when it comes to it. If your goals are realistic then the end should always be in sight. You know that you can achieve your goals.
Enlist the help of family and friends for support and remember that you are making changes for the better that will affect the rest of your life.
If you do not achieve your short-term goals in a short period of time, then these were probably not appropriate goals for you. Try re-defining your goals. Whatever you do, don’t give up – you haven’t failed; you are still learning about your capabilities.
Reward yourself when you do achieve your goals – however small they may be, they are still stepping stones along the way and you deserve credit for every step forward that you take.
Building on your short-term goals
Long-term goals are built on the success of short-term goals. Again, they must be realistic and achievable in a certain period of time. You must be able to visualise yourself (or your life) as it will be when you succeed.
Consider your short-term goals as the milestones that are achieved through day-to-day living. Your long-term goals are more likely to be a desired outcome or state of being. For example, your short-term goal may be to eat fruit as snacks and your long-term goal is to lose a certain amount of weight in a certain number of months.
Your long-term goals should also provide you with motivation to continue when the going gets a bit tough.
Maintaining the change
Making changes often turns out to be a continual process. Once you have achieved certain goals you will probably need to set more goals in order to maintain the New You.
As the years roll by, you may need to redefine some of your goals as your needs change and you adapt to changes in your circumstances.
Take it one step at a time, and remember: you only fail when you stop trying.