An athletic trainer recently advised choosing one area of focus to work on at a time, rather than taking on a full program of healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness training. This surprised me as the conventional wisdom is to approach a healthier lifestyle by synchronizing all the parts to achieve a goal of better health and fitness.
The trainer pointed out that pressing ourselves on several fronts at once can become overwhelming and result in giving up the whole idea because it is just too hard to exert the energy needed for change in multiple areas at once. It actually was a relief to hear that just being conscientious in starting an exercise program to was enough. Healthy eating would be a support, but just choosing one thing at a time to change might in the end be the best approach.
This working of goals, single file, might also be a refreshing approach to improving a struggling relationship with a family member or partner. Being “nicer” is vague and difficult to measure for any improvement. Single file goals might be to stop criticizing one area that we find annoying in a relationship. Or, it might be to compliment a child or partner for something specific just once a day. Spending 15 minutes listening to how the other’s day went or eating one meal together a day could be single file goals that start a more positive pattern.
In marriage counseling, a good approach is to identify areas of concern for each of the partners in an individual session. This session is followed by a joint session in which an area of highest concern is chosen by each partner. Partners agreeing to work on one area at a time builds confidence in actually being able to make changes that make a difference in getting along better with each other. Some say that the function of time is preventing us from having to face all of our lives at once. Pursuing goals in single file operates on that same principle.