December 26, 2009

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.


  1. SMART goals! Yes, but this year, I am adding a dash of affirmations, a handful of visualizations, and a whole lot of living as if. In the past, I have found that each of these things work, but I thought I would roll it all up together. Plus checking in with those goals about every 6 weeks instead of waiting to the end of the year!

  2. Excellent idea!

    Funny how often I'll propose a vague hopeful goal to myself without ever getting specific about the steps I'll need to take to achieve it. Then I wonder why I don't make any progress!

  3. Great post! You sucked me in with the title, since I'm a (pre)nursing student. And the info about methodically attacking goals is totally up my alley too. Thanks for the ideas! Have a great New Year!!

  4. Laying out the steps to achieve a goal is an excellent idea and one that I am totally going to copy - thanks, Jo!

  5. Great post to help people! The SMART plan is the way to go for many. Everyone is different BUT this is a great model plan. I post about it a lot.

    Me, no resolutions.. I think about things I want to challenge myself with but it is more a flowing thing. I still am working on a full body pull-up from last year.. getting closer & "finding myself"... not real close on that yet! :-)

  6. Great goals and a great format! I want to share the link to DJ Steve. He has put together FREE interval podcast for the Couch to 5K program. There are chimes for when you change from walk to run.
    I'm starting in January, too. Good luck to us all!

  7. Doh! The link:

  8. Great way to make the goals a reality!

  9. A great way to do what I know I should anyway, write down goals and break them into specifics.

    Maybe someday I'll even quit talking about it and do it!

  10. Why is it so easy to know how to do something and so difficult to actually do it? Think I need a little Holiday Detox.

  11. I think I'm going to ask my sister to teach me about those care plans. =D As for Giftsolutions, I've already listed mine. So excited to get back to my personal blogging.


  12. WOW! I never thought to use nursing care plans for anything other than nursing... what a great concept! Definitely going to start doing this... after I finish up all my care plans for school :)


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