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Daily Minimums: A Successful Goal-Setting Technique

Updated on December 10, 2018

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 talks 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, the most important thing to remember is that some is better than none. This is where minimums come into play. To set a minimum goal, simply 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. I can easily carry a 16-ounce water bottle to the gym. Sitting at my desk while working, I can often exceed this minimum but drink two 12-ounce glasses of water. 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 up-end my water bottle and polish it off along with my nighttime meds.

Keep it intentional too. In addition to being easy to reach, 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. Simply spend 20 minutes some evening chasing after your favorite sitcom from your formerly neglected treadmill, or turn on some tunes and dance with your children to the oldies. On a good day, you might spend an hour biking through the neighborhood on that bike you bought before you gave up on last January’s resolution. In a hectic week, you can still reach your minimum fitness goal by spending 10-minute intervals doing floor exercises in your living room or jogging in place while you sit on hold with the cable company.

Think about those things that you have an opportunity to do every day. “Easy but intentional” is the key to effective minimum goal setting. 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.

Getting Started with Minimums

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. 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 instead.

Diet and exercise aren't the only areas in which you can set minimum goals. Make the world a better place by planning 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.

Minimum goal setting can help you take control of your life. Spend 15 minutes a night on that project you’ve been putting off. I successfully unpacked and set up our spare bedroom by setting minimum goals. Doing the whole thing at once seemed unbearable, but at a minimum of 15 minutes a night the project was completely finished in a month.

Time to Maximize Minimums

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


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