What Nursing School Taught Me About Resolutions; or, Jo Uses Something She Learned

This picture has nothing to do with the following post.

Ah, the day after Christmas. How you feelin'? A little sleepy? A little sugar-logged? Dreading picking up all the bits and pieces of wrapping paper that are scattered all over the house? Wondering if leftover stuffing and mashers are a good breakfast?*

Are you thinking about New Year's Resolutions? (Or Gifts, or whatever you want to call them?)

Well, I've been thinking about New Year's Giftolutions. I have a couple of things that I'd really like to achieve this year, and I usually get a head-start on the whole behavior-changing thing during the week between Christmas and New Year's. So I was wondering last night what I could do in order to keep track of progress and make sure I didn't bite off more than I could chew.

I was stumped, until I remembered something from school: nursing care plans. (That wounded yowl you hear is from dozens of nursing students who thought they wouldn't have to think about those during vacation.) What the heck do care plans, the bane of every nursing student, have to do with planning, resolutions, and results?

Well, I'll tell ya.

Nursing care plans, for the uninitiated, are a methodical way of keeping track of existing and potential problems and of solving or preventing those problems. They consist of a statement of the problem, a goal that is specific, timed, and measurable, and a list of actions to take to prevent or solve the problem.

You can see where this is headed, right? It seems to me that if a nursing care plan is a good format for preventing problems, well, it'd be a good format for, say, assisting in weight loss/quitting smoking/going couch-to-5K. Let's see how it works in practice:

First we have a statement of the problem or the goal to be achieved:

I have gained four pounds in two weeks. (Problem) Therefore, I will adhere to my Weight Watchers allotment of 22 points per day plus 35 weekly points for the next week. (Goal)

That's specific (X number of points), timed (for one week), and measurable (that is, I can track points on the WW website).

Now we get to the steps necessary to achieve that goal. This, for me, was always the fun part:

1. I will pack my lunch for work each day.
2. In those lunches will be pineapple, my favorite dessert, and at least one protein source.
3. I will enter the foods I have consumed each evening on the WW website.
4. Therefore, I will go grocery shopping this morning to pick up foods I like that are on the plan.
5. And I will move any and all treats out of my direct line of sight when I go into the breakroom for lunch.

Ready for another example? (See? That really isn't so hard, and it can be quite helpful.)

I want to run a 5K in March of 2010.

In order to do this, I must:

1. Download the Couch-To-5K plan from the Interworldwebnet.
2. Write down in my calendar specific times to run.
3. Move my motivational CDs (ie, polka and the Ramones) into the workout room.
4. Lay out clothes to run in each morning so I can change quickly when I get home.
5. Tell my trainer what I'm doing so we don't overtrain my legs when we work together.

We all make resolutions to do stuff, all the time. If those resolutions are gonna be achievable, they have to be less amorphous than, say, "I'll lose twenty pounds this year." Do that, and you end up putting a chain around the fridge during the last week of November, and what kind of fun is that?

I'm not saying that putting your goals into a solid, timed, measurable form is fun, exactly, but it can be really helpful. Being specific about what you want to achieve and consciously setting out the steps necessary to get to where you want to be clarifies things immensely. You can check and recheck and modify your planning as you have to/want to, you can tweak things that don't work, and you have a record of what you've been doing.

What do you do when you have a goal to get to? Do you write it down, or meditate on it every night? Do you go the Jo Route of checkboxes and lists, or are you more relaxed? What works for you?

*Mashed potatoes and stuffing are an excellent breakfast, especially with bacon. Nom.

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