Like a plane in flight, we’re blown off course by life; here’s how to stay on the path.

Warren Buffet once said, “The chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Habits are the product of our behaviors, just as we are the product of our habits.

When it comes to health and fitness goals, however, strategy provides the overarching blueprint from which behaviors can be tactically executed to fulfill a clearly defined outcome.

No matter how often I fly, I am continually amazed at how much trust the passengers, me included, seem to have in the pilot’s ability to get us safely to our destination; in fact, most of us don’t seem to give it any thought at all. That’s incredible considering there are over 30,000 flights daily in the U.S. alone. What’s even more impressive is that every one of those flights is off course over 95 percent of the time. Yet with all those flights going adrift, they still manage to make it to their destination, without incident or panic, an overwhelming portion of the time. This is because the plane’s technology allows it to detect when the aircraft has gone off course and continually make adjustments in flight in order to arrive precisely at its destination—something we are all quite grateful for.

Our lives are analogous to an airplane’s flight path in that we often find ourselves veering off track as the winds of everyday life blow us in another direction. When this happens with an aircraft, the pilot doesn’t get frustrated or blame the plane for not staying on course. The pilot knows there are numerous variables to consider that can easily take the plane off its flight path. If the pilot knows exactly where he wants to go and exactly where he is, however, he can program the computer to continually adapt until the plane successfully arrives. A good strategy allows you to make the corrections necessary to successfully arrive where you want to be, in addition to saving you the frustration and discouragement that often comes from not having a clearly defined and developed plan.

Back in 1987 at Case Western University, David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva developed a model for organizational development that came to be popularly known as appreciative inquiry (AI). Over the past few decades, therapists and coaches have found that the AI model has had positive implications as a strategy for individual transformation as well. One of the elements of AI is a process called 5D.

The 5D model encompasses the elements of definition, discovery, dream, design and destiny. Applying these elements to your strategy for improving your health and fitness can help you meet your goals.


Exactly what areas of health and fitness do you want to focus on? Keep in mind that the reasons your goal is important to you are at least as important as the goal itself. Do you view success as weight loss, enhanced performance, more energy, greater cognition? All of the above? Which, if you had to choose, would be a priority? Why?


This phase is an exploration of “the best of what is.” In what areas of your life have you demonstrated your greatest strengths, attributes and abilities? What has accounted for your greatest successes so far? How can you use those attributes to help you successfully achieve your health and fitness goals? In what areas of health and fitness have you been most successful in the past? If you are new to health and fitness, focus on the areas in your life in which you have been most successful. How is what you’ve achieved in those areas of your life similar to what you want to achieve in health and fitness?


This is the exploration of “what might be.” Once you know the area or areas of health and fitness that you want to focus on most, as well as the strengths you possess that will help you to competently achieve any goal you set for yourself, what specific outcome do you want? How do you want to look and feel every day? What will be different about your life when this occurs? Who will you become? When in the future do you see this outcome being realized?


The design phase deals with “what should be.” What does the best version of you look like? For you to actualize your dream, crossing the chasm from what might be to what is, you need to design a plan of action. If you plan to realize your dream within one year, what things have to occur over the next 12 month to make that a reality? Which of those things need to happen within the next six months, the next three months, and the next 30 days? What specifically will you need to do daily? And what do you need to not do daily? What one thing could you do in the next 24 hours to get you on your way? The thing that often stands between an individual and her health and fitness goal is not a lack of motivation, willpower, commitment or character, but the lack of a single decision, supported by a series of decisions, in line with a specific outcome.


This is a declaration of “what will be.” This is the synergy of what you are committed to doing and who you are committed to being. If you already achieved your goals and were the person you are committed to being, what beliefs and attitudes would you have? How would those beliefs and attitudes support your efforts to achieve what you desire most? How would others be able to observe the beliefs and attitudes you possess by the behaviors you engage in or rarely engage in?

While there are certainly bad strategies and clearly good ones, the value of a strategy is not necessarily in its detail but its execution. The main thing is to get going. Everyone who is a highly successful fitness enthusiast was once a novice. Coming up with a strategy to reach your goals and taking steps to put it in place can turn today’s desires into tomorrow’s accomplishments.

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