Life is a journey and we only get so much time. But if we start out on our journey with no destination, with no map and in poor health, then we won't get very far. If a captain sets sail but has no idea of where he or she wants to go and has no maps or compass, this captain will be at the mercy of the winds and the currents. It is no different for anyone else in any walk of life. We are the captain of our own life and we decide on our destination, but we need to have a plan and the tools to help us on our journey.
It won't be plain sailing all the time so we need to be fit and healthy with a positive mindset. We'll need to weather some stormy waters from time to time and stay focused. If we don't take the helm, then we'll be at the mercy of the currents of life. Lets embark on a journey with a clear vision for our lives, with clarity in our goals and a plan to achieve them followed by consistent action. I would like to introduce you to a system I use for creating a life plan and taking action on that plan to achieve your gals and realise your vision. I call it O.R.C.A.S and this stands for:
I hope you find it useful in orchestrating your life. Let’s take a closer look.
This is about defining our Life Vision and setting our goals. What is it that we want to achieve in our lives. What do we stand for? What are our outcomes? Do we want a life of great health, freedom, love, fulfilment, financial independence? What is it you want to achieve this month, this year, the next 3 years and so on. Often, when a person is asked what they want, they don’t actually know or it is a very vague notion.
Do you have some new goals or outcomes you would like to achieve? OK. Great, let’s start the process.
Before you write the goals you want to achieve, you have to be clear on the type of goals you are setting. In this process we are interested in outcome based goals: For example:
I will weigh 2001bs at 12% body fat by March 31st 2018.
In this example, we have a very specific outcome and we can step into the future state and visualise what we will see, hear and feel.
If we had a goal that states:
I will eat 500 calories less per day for the next 3 months and eat healthy foods.
This is a behaviour based goal in that it is something you need to do. It states the behaviour we need to adopt to reach our outcomes. In this goal setting process, we are focusing on outcome based goals. A specific outcome we want to achieve. OK, so we have our outcome. Now we need look at our reasons for wanting to achieve this goal.
What are our compelling reasons for wanting this? Without a compelling reason for doing something, we probably won’t sustain our motivation and actions long enough to achieve the goal. This is a major reason why people don’t achieve their goals. They just don't want it enough!
They didn't have enough compelling reasons to take action every day and follow through. So we need to know the compelling reasons of our desired outcomes, otherwise, when the going gets tough, as it surely will from time to time, we won’t have enough motivation to keep on, keeping on! Compelling reasons provide us with the energy to follow through. In fact, I think it is more than motivation. I think we need to be inspired by our life plan and goals. Inspiration gives rise to motivation! Be inspired by your vision. Write down all of the compelling reasons you can think of for achieving your stated outcomes or goals.
What are the consequences of not following through? What will happen if you don’t realise your vision in this life? When I’ve asked myself these questions, the answers come back as being; not realizing my full potential, feeling unfulfilled, being unhealthy, worrying about the future and so on. These are all negative consequences and going through this process motivates me to avoid this pain. Together with the compelling reasons which motivate you toward your vision and goals, and consequences which motivate you away from negative outcomes and emotions, we have a very potent recipe for inspiration, motivation, enthusiasm and energy. This will sustain us on the journey to living the life we have designed for ourselves with a sense of purpose, joy and fulfillment. This in itself will contribute to good health.
We have to take action on our plan, otherwise, we are not going to get to our destination. What are the specific steps we need to take to achieve our outcomes? Perhaps we have written down an outcome that we want to achieve in 1 year. The next step is to break that down into something more manageable. What are the stepping stones to achieving this? What can we achieve in 6 months, in 3 months, in 1 month? What can we achieve in the next week to move us closer to our stated intention?
These are all measurable steps that take us a little bit closer to our bigger outcomes or goals. When we reach our smaller milestones, we feel a sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride. We feel like we are making progress and this boosts our confidence, our self-esteem and our happiness. In my life, progress certainly does equal happiness.
We need to schedule our actions so that there is some structure to our journey and we are not overwhelming ourselves with too much which leads to excessive stress. Time management is very important when creating a roadmap for our lives because it is easier to overestimate what we can achieve in a month, or 6 months or a year. Interestingly, while we overestimate what we can achieve in a year, we underestimate what we can achieve in 3 years! This is why it is important to chunk down our outcomes into to manageable, achievable sizes so that we can schedule them into our daily lives. Imagine achieving those small goals every day and every week. After a few months, this adds up into some major progress.
Let’s take an example.
Let’s imagine that we have a goal to lose 14lbs of body fat. This is our outcome and its part of a life vision to be healthier with much more vitality and energy. However, without some compelling reasons, we might falter a few weeks into the program. So what could be our compelling reasons? Here are a few to start with:
This is a good start and just looking at these reasons is very inspiring and will get us motivated. As part of this exercise we really need to visualize each of these. What can you see, hear and feel when you think about yourself in this future you, having lost the weight, looking great and feeling great?
Let’s take a look at the other side of this equation. What are the consequences to not achieving this goal?
Now these are just examples and they may well be different for each of us. Whatever your consequences of not doing something, visualize them so that you are fully motivated to move away from them.
So now we are inspired, we are motivated, and we've stoked the furnace. We've got a fire in our belly and it's time to take action. I believe that we should never leave the scene of a decision without taking some action, no matter how small. It sends a signal to our subconscious that we are committed to this path and we are getting the ball rolling. So when you’ve committed to achieving this goal, write your action plan.
Think about how long it will take to lose 14lbs of body fat. When do you want to lose this weight for? 2 months time? Break this down into what you need to lose weekly. That’s 2lbs a week for 7 weeks. That is a sustainable amount of weight to lose each week so that is what we are aiming for. Now, what do we need to do to achieve this? Clearly, we’ll need to think about our dietary habits and eating less calories than we expend, but also getting maximum nutrition from the foods we choose. One of the actions could be to research a common sense approach to losing body fat. We’ll also want to think about some physical activity to boost the metabolism. We might also need to buy some new training gear or join a gym, or book some swimming sessions. Whatever actions you put on your list, take some action immediately. Pick up the phone and book that cardio session, go for a brisk walk or prepare a nutritious low calorie meal.
So now we know what needs to be done to achieve our goal, let’s put a schedule together. This is our roadmap and every day, we need to be scheduling in some of those actions to move us a bit closer to our intended outcome. We might have to re-organise our lifestyle and diary somewhat to accommodate our new routine but we already have our compelling reasons to make this happen. On a daily basis, we’ll be making much better food choices because we need to reduce calories and get maximum nutrition from the foods that we are eating. We’ll also be making time for some form of physical exercise, whether that is burst cardio, brisk walking, swimming, biking, running and so on. After a few weeks of this, it is possible that motivation starts to fizzle. We see this time and time again with New Year’s resolutions and by the end of January, most resolutions have gone by the wayside. However, focus on your compelling reasons for achieving your goal and also the consequences of not achieving your goal. Keep on visualizing yourself as if you have achieved your goal and do this every day. What is happening here is that we are building new habits that will stay with us for life. Research shows that doing something on a daily basis for a month creates a new habit. Let’s make sure that we are creating positive, empowering and healthy habits.
In the next article on this topic, we’ll look at how we can integrate the SMART methodology into this framework and also look at some of its limitations.
Sports & fitness nutritionist, researcher and author on a mission to improve the human condition. Focusing on evidence-based and outcome-based nutrition, training, mindset & environment