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A new year, a new you: Take command of your health

The month of January provides a fresh opportunity to take command of your health and improve your physical and emotional health, job performance, and mission readiness. (Courtesy photo) The month of January provides a fresh opportunity to take command of your health and improve your physical and emotional health, job performance, and mission readiness. (Courtesy photo)

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What are your goals for 2018 – have you thought about them? Will it be a new you for this new year, or a new year and the same old you?

This month launches a fresh opportunity to turn your vision inward and consider what you can do to improve your physical and emotional health, job performance, and mission readiness. These qualities are fundamental to success not only in uniform, but also at home and in the community at large.

Patricia Deuster is a professor at Uniformed Services University and director of the USU Consortium for Health and Military PerformancePatricia Deuster is a professor at Uniformed Services University and director of the USU Consortium for Health and Military Performance.

Total Force Fitness, or TFF, is a concept to build and maintain health, readiness, and optimal performance by connecting mind, body, spirit, environment, and relationships. Take a moment to reflect on your TFF goals for 2018. What matters most to you? Perhaps you want to enhance your physical endurance, better manage your emotions, improve your communication skills, regulate your anger, lose weight, or cut back on caffeine. Whatever you decide to tackle, success requires three steps: inspiration, commitment, and action.

Inspiration can be defined as recognizing the need or desire to make change. It also means making change happen through commitment and then action. Importantly, inspiration includes more than just the physical, psychological, and social and family domains of TFF. The spiritual domain is also vital to health and performance. Meeting personal goals requires some sort of spiritual connection. This isn’t necessarily in a religious sense, but it means looking at your ethical foundation, core values, reasons for being, and what matters most to you.

We live in a world and time of great discord, and this can be difficult to accept. A spiritual connection helps us understand that while we can’t control disruptive forces surrounding us, we can learn how to control our thoughts, responses, and reactions to them by living up to our ideals and values. It may be helpful to remember what the great leader and civil rights advocate Mahatma Gandhi said: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.”

What do the words inspiration, commitment, and action mean? First, you must be inspired by or recognize a personal issue from within. Perhaps you are overly reactive or you have feelings of fear and self-doubt. Or maybe you believe you know it all or you don’t act according to your values. We all have areas where we need to take ownership. Once we’ve been inspired to accept the need for change, this must be accompanied by intentionally seeking a solution and setting a goal – a specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and reasonable goal.

After you’ve set your goals, it’s essential to make a commitment to execute them. This will take courage, concentration, and practice. The end result is action, which signifies success.

Acting according to deeply held values is very important to becoming a new you. The guiding principles you honor and strive to live up to reflect your inner core as well as your service-specific core values. Instead of reacting to your own thoughts and feelings, you choose to reflect and respond in ways that directly support your values. Taking action in support of those values will promote inner and outer flexibility, awareness, a sense of connection, gratitude, and optimism.

The following activities can help you decide the first steps to becoming a new you:

  • Make a list of what matters most in your life. Examples include work, family, friends, being a good partner, being kind to others, being honest, being part of a community, and staying in good physical condition.
  • Prioritize the list according to how much you value what matters.
  • Grade yourself on how well you believe you’re living up to what matters.
  • Identify several things you can do now and over the coming months to actively honor and live up to your top values.
  • Every day, engage in activities that support what really matters to you.

More information on military-specific, evidence-based total force fitness can be found on the Human Performance Resource Center website.

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