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Workplace Award How to stick to your goals to be healthy, and why that matters at work

This is part of a series looking at microskills – changes that employees can make to help improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Register your company now at www.employeerecommended.com.

If you're not in the physical shape you want to be, then why?

One factor that may be holding you back is health fatigue. This is when you have a feeling of pressure and stress associated with adopting and learning new physical health habits. If left unchecked, it sneaks up, weakens your resolve and shuts down your healthy commitment and actions.

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Changing your habits to achieve a desired level of fitness and health takes mental energy, focus and self-discipline. Without having a plan to help you manage the mental challenge of shifting your habits, and a way to fuel your mental reserves, you may fail to reach your physical health goals. Why? The mind often quits before the body.

The purpose of this microskill is to manage and prevent health fatigue. There's no program, device or book; only you can do it for yourself.

Your health has a direct impact on your work. Employees need to be physically healthy in order to have long-term success in the workplace. Without their health, employees can't do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Employers who facilitate wellness programs understand that employees' physical health impacts employee productivity and how well the company performs overall.

Enjoying being physically healthy and being free of illness, or able to effectively managing chronic disease, has no price tag. A person only has to lose get ill to understand how important it is to be healthy. The health choices we make today impact our tomorrow.

Here are tips to manage and prevent health fatigue.

Normalize failure

When we fail, we are living. Failing is evidence of trying; trying is a commitment to a particular outcome. Some say there's no such thing as trying, only success or failure. That's not really true. The education system has taught us that someone who gets 51 per cent in Grade 12 math can still go on to achieve success, with persistence and hard work. It's not the slip or failure that's as important as how we define it. Thomas Edison took 10,000 attempts to invent the light bulb. He kept trying to reach success. As you aim to improve your health, remember that each day is a new chance to start again with a clean slate. Health happens one small decision at a time. A few poor choices are just that: they don't define your health forever. The sum of your individual choices will. So if you get off track one day, stop yourself, recalibrate, and aim to keep to your goals the next day.

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Be clear on your 'why'

When you wake up each morning, ask yourself, "Why is being physical healthy important to me today?" To fuel your commitment to physical fitness each day, be clear on your 'why.' For example, "I want the energy to be able to go to work and then come home to play with my 12-year-old son." Only you can define your commitment and why it's important to you. To achieve physical health, you need to value it and understand at your core what it means to you. This is the fuel that can give you the grit – the internal drive to achieve your goals amid many challenges – to tune in to when you open your eyes each day. This mantra can help prevent mental fatigue and push you harder to reach your personal goals.

Set realistic expectations

Before you make a plan, have a picture in mind of your desired outcome and the time and effort it will take to achieve this goal. Be clear on the amount of mental energy you will need to commit, and pace your plan accordingly. For example, if you're not exercising and are 30 pounds overweight, making a plan that includes walking four times a week for 60 minutes, eating more salads, filling your water bottle three times a day, and being in bed by 10:30 p.m. sounds good in theory. But all those changes at once can be too much of a challenge. One minor slip, when left unchecked, can burn mental energy that can quickly sidetrack a well-intentioned plan. If you're looking for long-term change, less is more. Pick one or two things at a time and incorporate them into your daily routine. When they're more of a habit after a week or so, add in a new one. As well, set your targets to support and reinforce success – such as defining success as following your plan 70 per cent of the time. Try for 100 per cent, but build in a buffer. As you succeed with your goals, increase your targets and adjust your expectations.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto. He is also the president of Howatt HR Consulting and founder of TalOp, in Kentville, N.S.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

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This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this link: http://tgam.ca/workplaceaward

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