To transform your health, you need to establish goals immediately after your scene size-up! (Photo by author.)
Transformation is so evident in firefighting. We can look at any successful firefight and see the transformation from chaos, disorientation, and uncertainty into order, control, and safety. Your actions bring these results. The same principles of transforming a fire scene can be directly applied to transforming your health. Like firefighting, transforming your health begins with intentional, purposeful action, which in turn begins with conducting a scene size-up; establishing goals; and implementing small, consistent changes for dramatic results.
When you arrive on scene at a fire, do you jump right into a firefight? No! You conduct a 360° walk-around; talk with occupants; and observe the building construction, floor layout, fire and smoke behavior, and much more with a thorough size-up. You identify concerns that will dictate your actions. If you fail to do this, you risk making the wrong strategic and tactical decisions. But a scene size-up needs to be done efficiently; if you take too much time, the scene will get worse. It is the balance between gathering essential information and responding quickly that is so vital.
When you are preparing to transform your health, you want to gather the right information within an appropriate timeframe. This will set you up for success without delaying the impact you will make on your health. So how can you gather the right information without taking too much time contemplating your actions? There are number of different ways you can do this. I will share a few simple ones here.
Asking yourself questions is a great way to really assess where your health is at. There are lots of questions you can ask in this self-survey, but below are a few questions that you can ask yourself quickly and honestly. Answer the questions on a scale of one to five, using the description to dictate the numerical value.
- What is my daily activity level? (1=very inactive; 5=extremely active)
- How often do I exercise? (1=0 times a week; 5=5 times a week)
- How often do I eat fast food? (1=3 to 4 days a week; 5=2 times a month)
- How many caloric beverages do I drink (soda, alcohol, juice, etc.)? (1=3 drinks a day; 5=1 drink a week)
- How much rest do I get when I am able? (1=4 to 5 hours; 5=8 to 9 hours)
Take Pictures of Your Food
Eat as you normally would. This means meals, snacks, drinks, etc. There should be no change except that you are going to take a picture of whatever it is you’re are eating or drinking before you consume it. Do this consistently for three days. Doing this will give you a visual representation of your dietary habits, including what foods you’re eating and when you tend to eat. Not only does this gather information but it encourages you to pause for a moment and reflect on what you are eating before you eat it.
Mindful eating is essential for transforming your health. It means you are intentionally and purposefully consuming calories. It doesn’t mean that you are eating only “health” foods. It means that you are aware of your eating habits. It is this mindset that allows you to make decisions rather than have impulse control you.
Mark the Days You Exercise
Go to your calendar and place an “X” on all the days over the past month that you intentionally exercised. This will allow you to see how conscious you are about your exercise. If you are doing it casually, you may think of a few days; if you are doing it intentionally, you will most likely recall lots of days. If you are exercising very little or not at all, then you will find it hard to recall. From there, you can reflect on your activity level in an unbiased way.
Establish S.M.A.R.T Goals
After you complete your scene size-up at a fire, you establish goals. Every fire scene has the goals of life safety, incident stabilization, and property conservation, but where these goals align needs to be established early for a proper risk vs. benefit analysis. Failure to operate with the proper goals will lead to an unfavorable outcome.
To transform your health, you need to establish goals immediately after your scene size-up! This can’t be stated enough. If you don’t have goals, you won’t have a positive outcome. Sadly, when people establish goals, they often settle on “working out more” or “eating better.” These are not goals! These are opportunities for failure! Your goals need to be the right ones. They need to be S.M.A.R.T.
S.M.A.R.T is an acronym used within the professional world and other emergency management fields to decide how to act. S.M.A.R.T stands for the following:
S: specific: Your goals need to be hard focused. Examples are eating fast food only one time a week, exercising three times a week, going to bed at 2000 hours every night, only drinking one soda a day, and losing 20 pounds. A helpful tip is for you to establish a numerical value to the goal to help you have something to strive toward.
M: measurable: Your goal needs a means to be gauged. This will allow you to determine if you are succeeding or failing. As I mentioned previously, this can come from a numerical value or some other way that can be externally verified. If it can be noticed or tracked, then it is measurable.
A: action oriented: Transforming your health requires intentional action. This means that your goal needs to require you to have direct input into the achievement of that goal. Transforming your health requires your direct input. For that, your input needs to be in action.
R: realistic: Being realistic means having a goal that is obtainable and appropriately challenging. If your goal is unobtainable, you become frustrated, discouraged, and disinterested. If your goal is too easy, you will not reach your full potential. Being able to operate within the balance of these two extremes is where you will find a goal that is realistic.
T: timeframe: Having a timeframe creates a sense of urgency that provides accountability. A timeframe also gives you a sense of accomplishment. When a goal doesn’t have a timeframe, there is no feeling of completion or opportunity to reflect on your successes.
Using S.M.A.R.T goals is the next step after you have gathered appropriate information to decide what it is you are going to do. After the decision is made, you can begin to act.
Small, Consistent Changes Produce Dramatic Results
No firefight happens instantaneously. It is the culmination of mounting actions that add together toward a successful outcome. Line stretching, charging, positioning, and extinguishing are some of the many things that happen at a fire to bring control. The same things need to happen to transform your health.
If there is one thing you ever remember, let it be that small, consistent changes produce dramatic results. Too often, people want to transform their health with drastic measures that they cannot sustain. Drastic changes rarely lead to sustainable transformations. The changes you make need to be ones that you can maintain for a long duration to prevent reversion. Changes that you make now may not seem significant but, over time, you make them progressive and manageable as you adapt and transform.
Let’s take the not-so-specific goal of losing 10 pounds. Some small changes you could consider would be decreasing your soda from five times a day to three times a day, adjusting your exercising from walking three times a week for 20 minutes to jogging/walking three times a week for 22 minutes, or reducing eating out from four times a week to two times a week. These changes may not seem significant but, over the course of two to three weeks, they will have an impact. Just as important, these changes are ones you can keep up with as you make new changes after the two to three weeks. These new changes could then be soda one time a day, jogging for 20 minutes, and eating out one time a week. It’s not the drastic adjustments that have the greatest transformation-it’s the ones that continue to grow and develop from humble beginnings to long-term transformations!
The principles of transforming a fire scene and the principles of transforming your health are the same. If you conduct a scene size-up; establish S.M.A.R.T goals; and create small, consistent changes you can manage and sustain, you will transform your health!
Author’s note: It is always a pleasure of mine to help firefighters dig deeper in their transformations by helping them identify patterned behaviors and habits that can be modestly adjusted to provide a successful outcome. To receive more personal assistance, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.