- American adults should consider developing better lifestyle habits today to help themselves experience the best retirement possible.
- The road to wellness may seem overwhelming, so it’s best to start with small steps.
- Taking small steps generates cumulative and enduring achievement toward life’s goals.
A while back my good friend Paul (name changed to respect privacy) called me in distress.
“I just finished my annual physical and my lab numbers are through the roof,” he said. “My doctor thinks I may have prediabetes and something else called metabolic syndrome.”
Prediabetes means Paul had abnormally elevated blood sugar levels but not high enough to be called diabetes, as the American Diabetes Association describes. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that together could increase the chances of Paul developing heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other serious health problems.
You might have guessed that Paul was overweight, and that contributed directly to both problems. Paul was never much into fitness, and frankly, he and his big belly never met a pizza they didn’t like. Far too many Americans are in Paul’s situation and fail to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are considered obese, according to the most recent federal statistics available.
The good news about Paul’s situation was that all of those serious problems forecast by prediabetes and metabolic syndrome can be prevented or, at least, delayed, with increased physical activity, sensible eating, and progressive weight loss.
Paul groaned: “My doctor wants me to lose 50 pounds. There’s no way…it would take forever!” Paul seemed overwhelmed at the prospect of having to reverse decades of poor habits overnight. The challenge seemed so huge it didn’t make sense to even attempt it.
Breaking it down for clients
At first glance, many of life’s challenges appear so big to handle that we don’t even take the first step. What would happen if you simply chopped them into many, many smaller daily challenges? Consider this:
- Paul’s doctor didn’t tell him to lose 50 pounds in just one month, right? What if he could just shed five pounds? Isn’t that more doable? Then do it again next month.
- Paul can’t devote three hours a day at the gym. Well, nobody asked him to. But what if he could do some stretching exercises and walk for 30 minutes? Wouldn’t that help?
- Instead of soda and wine, what if Paul substituted water or unsweetened iced tea with his meals? Does this make sense?
Well, so far, so good for Paul. He dropped 41 pounds in less than a year, and he kept it off. His lab values improved dramatically, and soon he’ll be running in his third 5K race. More work still needs to be done, but Paul beams when describing his wellness turnaround.
Setting up clients for success
Transamerica’s Wealth+Health initiative serves to remind everyone that the positive choices we make today create the foundation for financial and physical wellness in the future:
Live well today so you can enjoy a fulfilling retirement.
Save more today for a secure financial future.
Did you know, according to Rand Corp., 6 in 10 adults have one chronic health condition , and about 4 in 10 have more than one? Negative lifestyle habits like poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and smoking are major contributors. The good news is that they can be reversed, reducing the likelihood of spending a lengthy retirement in poor health.
Whether it’s health or finances, the lack of an effective strategy is often our greatest obstacle. In our impatience for results, we try to change too much at once and expect too much of ourselves, and this impatience usually leads to frustration and failure. Think of all the people who fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.
Do your clients have a big challenge ahead of them? Here’s why taking small steps is often a smart strategy for tackling huge concerns, whether it’s wellness, career, relationships, or personal finances:
- Small steps let you set more realistic goals , which means you are more likely to succeed.
- Small steps allow you to be very specific in setting goals. “No trips to the refrigerator after 7 p.m.” is a far more accessible goal than “lose 50 pounds.” Consistently apply this small step, and you will steadily advance toward the larger, ultimate goal.
- Small steps generate immediate progress, which is a powerful motivator to continue. Plus, any progress still represents progress. Even if you don’t hit your goal, you’re still moving forward. A 7% weight loss if you’re overweight may be sufficient to lower your risk of diabetes , the American Diabetes Association says.
- Small steps give you added flexibility in the choices you make. Can’t walk at night? Walk at sunrise.
- Small steps keep you in control and reinforce freedom of choice. You have only committed to the next small step. You’re not being forced to do anything else.
Taking small steps may be one of the most effective problem-solving strategies we can use. Small steps are the quickest way to conquer inertia and to move forward. Consistency and learning to build on small victories are the keys to success.
Finally, if clients chart a new course loaded with habit-changing behaviors, remind them to be kind to themselves. Nobody’s perfect, so don’t give up. Transamerica’s Wealth+Health philosophy supports the notion that getting healthier is all about the small positive choices we make throughout the day. The same goes for your own goals. Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes time to reach them.
Just take it one small step at a time.
Dr. Bill Lloyd is a board-certified surgeon and pathologist. He joined Transamerica earlier this year as its first health director. Bill and his wife, Mary, (also a physician), live in Sacramento, California.
Things to Consider:
- Divide huge challenges into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Being in control of your small steps increases the likelihood of ultimate success.
- The “small steps” approach can help you succeed in many important aspects of life: health, finances, career, relationships.
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Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, ERISA, tax, legal or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent advisors for answers to your specific questions.