Roy, Brad A. Ph.D., FACSM; Roberts, Pamela A. M.D.

With the new year, many of us will pursue a New Year’s resolution with a sincere intent to succeed. For some, the resolution is targeted at improving their personal health by exercising, eating better, losing weight, lowering blood pressure, and/or improving a number of other lifestyle and health-related factors. Unfortunately, a vast majority experience disappointment because, after a few months, our goals fall by the wayside.

Why do these wonderful intentions so frequently drift into failure? Because New Year’s resolution goals are often emotional, impulsive, and originate out of the desire to “quick fix” a problem. Current life challenges/barriers rarely are considered, frequently resulting in unrealistic and unattainable goals. In some instances, the motivation to set the goals is stimulated by others (family, peers, and medical professionals) and not driven internally. Such “problem born” and externally stimulated goals often end in frustration prematurely as they fail to tie into a clear vision that serves to keep us focused and mindful.

A personal wellness vision, on the other hand, is a compelling synthesis of our values and our heart’s desires. The power of a personal wellness vision is that it guides its owner toward a desired future, a flourishing life of thriving, or as David Viscott stated:

“Begin to think of yourself as becoming the person you want to be.”

Whereas first attempts at creating a wellness vision often are superficial and shallow, creating an effective personal wellness vision requires inner reflection and thought. An authentic wellness vision springs up “from the heart,” often eliciting powerful physical and emotional responses when reread. This vision will be enlivened by connecting it to personal life values and motivators and ultimately will fan the “change spark” into a flame. It is important to ponder what you ultimately want to achieve (is it truly just “lose weight” or is it something bigger, perhaps preventing the development of diabetes so I can enjoy activities with my grandchildren) and identify the small steps that will get you there. Some key points to consider while developing your wellness vision are:

• Reflect on who do I want to be; what results do I want to achieve?

• What activities do I want to do consistently?

• Why does this matter a lot to me right now?

• What strengths, talents, and abilities will I draw on? Affirming exploration and verbalization of past successes will help shine a light on your unique character strengths that have allowed previous successes and change.

• Inventory what currently is going well and what is there to celebrate because this will build hope and self-efficacy.

• A mindful appraisal of challenges and barriers is critical and frequently will reveal previously unthought-of options.

• Your personal wellness vision should be written in the present tense (which is more compelling than future tense), and it is a statement of your heartfelt description of living life as your best self.

Following are two examples of a personal wellness vision:

• “I am living life nicotine free, with energy to face each new day. I am employed in a job I love and in which I make a difference for others. I choose to practice mindfulness daily, which encourages me to make great decisions. I am exercising for FUN and stress reduction three times per week. I am living life as my best self.”

• I am fully alive and successfully moving through my pain every day. I prioritize me, so that I can keep up with my grandkids. I am socially connected and walking 2 to 3 miles 3 to 4 times per week. I am the library “story lady” again, and I am content.”

A well-written and thought-out wellness vision can become your guide to a new lifestyle. Remember, change is not easy and takes patience, perseverance, and a mindful focus. You might consider working with a certified wellness coach who is trained to guide you in the development of your personal wellness vision and to support you along the path to achievement. Perhaps, this new year, the best resolution is to commit to claiming your wellness vision.

© 2015 American College of Sports Medicine.