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Daily Minimums: A Successful Goal-Setting Technique

Updated on January 22, 2012

An introduction to minimums

For 10 years in my early adulthood I had the pleasure of being in the care of chiropractor and nutritionist Dr. Jim Ragan. Along with his fabulous healthcare and healing techniques, Jim teaches some radical life changes associated with the B.E.S.T. system of chiropractic care. Because many of the teachings and recommendations of B.E.S.T. are huge changes from the way in which the average person lives, Jim frequently talked about simply setting daily minimums.

The idea behind minimums is that a person can set a low goal so that achievement is optimally possible. For example, instead of setting the high goal of drinking 64 ounces of water every day of the next year, set the more reachable minimum goal of drinking at least two 8-ounce glasses of water every day. The lower goal doesn’t preclude drinking more than 16 ounces of water in a day, but it provides a higher level of success and satisfaction for the goal setter. When I have a busy Saturday that has involved coffee and orange juice over breakfast, a soda pop with the kids over lunch, and a single bottle of water at suppertime before I run to the next activity, I can feel good about having reached my minimum goal. Additionally, on a workday when I have been sitting at my desk drinking water all morning, enjoyed a glass of water with lemon over lunch with an associate, then guzzled 2 or 3 bottles of water during my evening trip to the gym, I not only have the satisfaction of having met my daily minimum goals but also of having exceeded them. Talk about a win-win situation!


Making minimums work for you

When making positive life changes, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that some is better than none. The key to setting a minimum goal is to pick an amount of an activity or accomplishment that you know you can always reach. For me, the goal of 16 ounces of water daily is always achievable. It is the size of the water bottle I can carry to the gym or in my car on other trips. Even if, on a particularly unhealthy day, I drink other things and find at bedtime that I still haven’t reached my minimum goal, I can tip up that bottle and polish it off along with my nighttime meds.

A minimum goal should also be one you may not reach if you don’t keep it in mind. For a lot of people, 20 minutes of recreational exercise at least 2 days a week would never happen if it wasn’t done intentionally. If, however, you make this one of your minimum goals, you will find how easy it is to spend 20 minutes some evening chasing after your favorite sitcom from your formerly neglected treadmill or dancing with your children to the oldies or spinning through the neighborhood on that bike you bought before you gave up on last January’s resolution.

“Easy but intentional” is the key to effective minimum goal setting. Think about those things that you have an opportunity to do every day. Could you have chosen to eat an extra piece of fruit or serving of vegetables? Was walking an option when you chose to take your car? Plan to do some of those things. Set a minimum goal.

Minimums you can try

The best way to test a goal-setting method is to put it into action. Here are some more attainable minimums that may inspire you:

Plan to eat one serving of fruits or vegetables at every meal. Or if you know that a meal such as lunch tends to happen in places where fruits or vegetables are not easy options, plan to eat a minimum of three servings throughout your day.

Plan to make one intentional act of kindness each week. This can be as simple as complimenting the checkout clerk at the grocery store on her efficiency or dropping a quarter into the expired parking meter you see while running errands downtown. Bring the act of kindness home and do the dishes when the chore list clearly indicates it is your spouse’s turn, or take the time to draw a bath for your loved one whose week at work has been pure torture.

Spend 15 minutes a night on that project you’ve been putting off. For me it is unpacking and setting up our spare bedroom. Doing the whole thing at once seems unbearable, but at a minimum of 15 minutes a night the project could be finished in a month (even though I haven’t touched it once in the past 3).

Time to maximize minimums

It’s time for me to close this Hub and proceed to maximize the minimum goals I have set for the new year. Best wishes to all of you, whatever your goals for 2012. Be gentle with yourself. No accomplishment is minimal, no matter how small.


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    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 6 years ago from Olathe, KS

      Thanks, Sueswan! May you have the best of all things in 2012.

    • profile image

      Sueswan 6 years ago

      Hi Marie Gail

      Great article. One step at a time.

      It is the little things we do that make the difference.

      So many people set unrealistic goals that they get overwhelmed and give up.

      Voted up and awesome

      Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

    • Marie Gail profile image

      Marie Gail Stratford 6 years ago from Olathe, KS

      So glad you were encouraged by this, JayeWisdom. May all the best come to you in the new year.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      This plan is the most sensible approach to goal-setting I've ever read. As a retiree with physical challenges, I can no longer do many of the activities I once did, nor do I have the energy (or strength) to go full-tilt when working on a project. Setting minimum goals and slowly building up to larger ones makes a lot of sense. It's certainly better than not making any life improvements at all. Thanks for sharing this information.