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Thousands of people with heart problems have used goal setting to change their lives and their health

It is important that the goal is something for you – something that you really want to achieve. When you are recovering after your heart attack, life continues to go on around you.

Most of us don’t have the luxury of spending a few weeks solely focusing on our health and recovery – we still need to get on with daily life and all the obligations, pressures, and twists and turns that this brings. If you want to make a change in your life – whether this change is related to your health, wealth or happiness, there are common factors which have been shown to increase success:

  • Set a goal that is really important to you and write it down
  • Plan how you are going to achieve the goal
  • Get support from those around you
  • Brainstorm how you can overcome challenges and build your confidence.

Set a goal that is really important to you and write it down

Health may be only one of the important things going on in your life or worrying you. There are many things that can make it hard to take time to look after yourself or make changes. What is most important to you at the moment?

  • whānau/family
  • friends/community commitments
  • home environment/belongings
  • work/career or study
  • money/finances
  • spiritual health/wellbeing
  • social life/hobbies
  • other things?

Examples of the goals that other people have chosen:

  • Want to get fit enough to attend daughter’s wedding.
  • Need to get back to full duties at work otherwise don’t get paid.
  • Want to get back to looking after the grandchildren.
  • Want to get back to playing bowls before the end of the season.
Dr Fraser Hamilton talks about making small steps that will lead to ongoing lifestyle change

Plan how you are going to achieve the goal

The best way to do this is to make your goal S.M.A.R.T.E.R.

S – Specific: What am I going to do? (What, when, where, how)

Start by setting specific goals. For instance, if you need to increase your physical activity, saying you’ll “do more now and then” is vague. It’s hard to achieve a vague goal. But be sure the goal is also appropriate and realistic. For example, if you’re not physically active, saying you’ll walk two kilometres a day may be too much just yet. Instead, saying you’ll walk an extra five minutes a day gives you a specific aim. One that can be measured – so you know when you succeed – and one that is also realistic.

M – Measurable: How will I know when I have got there?

A – Achievable: Is this something I can do and in my control? What will I need?

R – Realistic: Am I being realistic? What are the likely problems?

T – Time bound: Can I do this in a reasonable time frame?

E – Enjoyable and evaluate: Is this something I want to do? What worked, what didn’t?

R – Record and reward: Writing it down and placing somewhere prominent helps keep us on track. Building in rewards also helps!

Be sure to reward yourself for the progress you’ve made. As you start a new goal, offer yourself a promise such as: “If I reach my goal this (day, week, month), I will treat myself to a well deserved… (think of something you want, such as a CD, a movie, or a massage).

The ‘right way’ to get back to normal

  • Jill’s goal is to get back to gardening. She sets it as a goal: 20 minutes every day. Not ‘too hard’ or ‘too easy’, a five out of 10 for effort.
  • After her 20 minutes, Gill stops and puts her tools away. She could do more and wants to. It’s frustrating having to stop now, because she knows she could do more, but she sticks to her target.
  • The next day Gill is feeling fine and looking forward to doing some more in the garden today. Gill does her 20 minutes in the garden everyday for the next week. She’s getting stronger and the digging is getting easier. After a week the goal of 20 minutes is too easy. She sets a new target of 30 minutes. The level effort is still five out of 10.
  • Six months later. Gill has continued to use goal setting. These days she can work all day in the garden with no problem.

The ‘wrong way’ to get back to normal

  • Robbie loved his garden. Since his heart attack the garden is a mess. He says to himself he’s going to do as much as he can. Half an hour later he’s feeling tired but as he’s only done a little, he can’t stop now. The exercise will do me good he says. No pain, no gain.
  • After an hour Robbie could not go on. The next few days he was too tired and sore to do anything, he just had to rest.
  • Three days later he’s feeling a bit better at last. He says to himself he’ll have another go at the garden. But after only 40 minutes, it’s no good, he can’t go on. He’s done even less this time, but he’s going to have to stop.
  • One week later. He’s feeling a bit better, but it has taken him a week to recover. The garden is too much for me, I’m not going out there again.
  • Six months later. Robbie’s had to give up the garden. It’s his heart, he seems to be getting weaker and weaker all the time.
Did you know?

People who are most successful at achieving change usually credit their success to the support that they have received from others. When you have decided on your goal think about who you need to talk to to help you.

One-step-at-a-time - goal achieving video

Develop an action plan of my goals

Continue the journey

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