Wellness Wednesday: Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Welcome to the first edition of Wellness Wednesday, a weekly series where I'll be sharing the science and psychology behind my nutrition philosophy. Today, I'm focusing on an overlooked step in the goal setting process - planning for the worst. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but for anyone setting a New Year Resolution or similar, this is critical to do early on. Life is full of surprises, and they're not always pleasant.

Goal Setting: Plan for the Worst

Let's just start off by saying this was not the post I had planned for my inaugural Wellness Wednesday. With my relaunch and shift of focus towards nutrition for wellbeing, I had written a post discussing the science behind mood-enhancing foods along to go along with the launch of my new nutrition guide on joyful eating. But my online shop isn't set up to sell yet and today (yesterday as you're reading this) was absolutely the worst. I've spent half the day at the vet, now it's 8 pm, I'm blurry-eyed from crying and finishing up a post about happy foods seems absurd when no amount of omega 3s could make me me feel better.

First, I'll fill you in on my pup. This morning, all of a sudden, Savannah, my Bernese Mountain Dog child, couldn't walk. Her back leg seized up and she couldn't put any pressure on it. I had already made an appointment with the vet to discuss increasing treatment for her arthritis (which seemed to be getting worse the past months) and to examine a bump I found. So when this happened, I was in panic mode. My family, friends, clients, and probably most people who've read this blog more than a week know how much my dogs mean to me. Savannah is extra special, since she was mine before I got married - a gift from my parents when I was lonely and stuck living in a town I wasn't so excited to be in.

After spending the afternoon at the vet, here's the good news: the bump is nothing and her arthritis seems to be pretty stable. The bad news: she tore a ligament in her hind leg and being almost 100 lbs with an arthritic elbow, will likely need significant orthopedic surgery to fix it. Any prayers, healing thoughts or magical healthy ligament dances you can send our way are greatly appreciated!

As I was driving to my mother-in-laws house to wait while Savannah got her X-rays, I couldn't help but think this is just the kind of day that would completely derail someone from their New Years Resolution. Goodness knows my monthly goals were the last thing on my mind. My staying on track was 25% planning, 25% luck and 50% the fact that my mother-in-law didn't offer me a quarter pounder with cheese.

But that's how it always goes with goal setting. Things are going great, you're trucking along according to plan, then along comes the unexpected. Ugh, life.

It's easy to stick to your goals when you have all the tools you need at your disposal. Some days you'll be fully equipped. Other days you'll be missing a hammer or a wrench or your entire toolbelt. What will you do? How can you get the job done?

When I set a new goal with a client, I always ask them to consider what could possibly throw them off track. No one likes to think about the negative, and I often get some pushback when I ask this question. But it's important to consider these things. In all my years of practice, I've yet to meet a single person who has achieved a goal without facing a single barrier.

If you've set a New Year resolution, goal, intention...whatever, I encourage you to consider what you rely on to achieve it. Does your spouse prepare healthy meals for you? What would you do if they broke their arm and couldn't cook? Learning some basic cooking skills and healthier convenience foods might not be a bad idea. Do you rely on the buddy system to motivate yourself to get out of bed for an early morning run? What would you do if your running buddy came down with the flu? Finding another way to keep yourself accountable would be smart. Are you running solely on willpower? What will you do after a long, crappy day at work when your willpower is zapped and every single bone in your body wants a takeout pizza and half a bottle of wine? Forming habits rather than building willpower would be a powerful defense against that inevitable day.

Plan for every worst case scenario short of a zombie apocalypse. Then consider what you would do in a zombie apocalypse, because that's kind of funny to think about.

Maybe your Plan B is to give yourself some grace when you inevitably struggle and slip. Accept in advance that more than likely, you won't achieve your goal in the exact way that you imagine. Perfection isn't a goal, nor is it realistic. Grace > Guilt.

I started to write "I hope 2015 is a year filled with only best case scenarios for you," but that's not true. While I hope nothing tragic occurs, a year without struggle is a year without growth or learning or true achievement. Life isn't planned, nor does it revolve around your plans. So plan for the worst, hope for the best.