Small Steps to Health and Wealth™ - Making the Decision to Take Control
Family and Consumer Sciences/ EFNEP Agent
Several years ago, two Rutgers University Extension Specialists, Dr. Barbara M. O’Neill and Dr. Karen M. Ensle, published a curriculum entitled Small Steps to Health and Wealth™. The curriculum includes strategies through which to implement small, practical changes in a person’s life in the areas of health and financial practices. By diligently practicing their ideas, the authors believe that persons can enhance both their health and wealth.
Photo Credits: Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service, Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, New York
UF/IFAS Specialists, Dr. Michael Gutter and Dr. Linda Bobroff, condensed the curriculum. The FCS Agents from the Florida Panhandle wish to share some of the strategies throughout the year in our newsletter. It is our hope the ideas will have application to your life.
This article is intended to assist you to take action to change. The strategy is to seize control. Think of the various health and wealth behaviors you would like to change. Behaviors often can be seen as finding balance between resources and consumption. For example, the more food you eat, the more calories you have to use in order to maintain energy balance (your weight). You are in a state of energy balance when your caloric intake and use are equal. The same is true for income and expenses. Spending more than your income, called deficit spending, reduces your net worth. Deficit spending requires that you either use assets or take on debt to fund your excess consumption. Balance is spending no more than you make and/or making more money so you can spend more.
I like this phrase, “First, say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do” - Epictetus. One of the most powerful motivational strategies to improving health and increasing wealth is visualization. It is believed that people can alter their lives just by altering their mindset. It is a powerful step in the process of setting and achieving goals. Unfortunately, it is often ignored. Strive to develop a physical, mental, and emotional “picture” of your future reflective of what you want to achieve and then make a plan to achieve your “picture.”
Another way to advance is to remind yourself of your strengths and the past goals you have set and achieved. Success is a powerful motivator; failure is a mind-set that can be changed. Let me suggest that you sit down and make a list of your strengths and past successes. Review the list periodically to remind yourself of how you have overcome many negative events and things in your life. Remind yourself that you have the ability to alter your health and wealth by incorporating small changes that result in big achievements.
Have you ever heard the term locus of control? Locus of control is a concept that refers to the extent you perceive your personal behavior influences life events. Internally controlled people perceive themselves as having control over the outcome of events, including their health and finances. Externally controlled persons perceive that things “happen” by luck, fate, or the control of powerful people. Life is seen as a game of chance where most aspects of one’s future are pre-determined with outcomes being controlled by others.
In your life, a particular situation will determine whether you react with internal or external control. People are generally more internal in familiar situations where they have some experience. In unfamiliar situations, people are more external and are apt to defer to the expertise of others. This concept is reflected in your behavior with respect to health and wealth.
Which are you? Do you see yourself as having some control over future life outcomes or are you at the mercy of “the powers that be”? Julian Rotter developed a 13-item scale to test your Locus of Control (LOC) concept in the 1960s and it has been refined several times since. To test your personal LOC, type “Locus of Control” into your Internet search engine. Your will find dozens of questionnaires, including several for health locus of control (HLC). HLC is the degree to which people believe their health is controlled by internal or external factors.
The original 13-item LOC questionnaire developed by Rotter can be taken online at WWW.PSYCH.UNCC.EDU/PAGOOLKA/LC.HTML. It will require you to choose between pairs of statements and pick the one that best describes your feelings about your control over life events. For example, “Does it pay to plan things in advance or do most things work out as a result of good or bad luck?”
As you may foresee, having an internal locus of control allows you to have more ability to change because you are internally driven by your strengths and your past successes. Please be reminded that you can change and move from an external LOC toward an internal LOC. Educators and psychologists suggest the following:
Set small goals with a high probability of success so you will learn to attribute positive results to your own efforts.
Since you have a tendency to rely on others for feedback and direction, find people to support you who serve as positive role models.
Make a list of your targets of blame for poor health or spending deficits. Consider if the blame is rightly placed.
Remember what Anatole France once said, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan but also believe”. Visualize your future and take small steps to achieve it. Work to increase the control you feel for reaching your future goals.
Sources: Portions of this article were adapted excerpted from: O’Neill, B. and Ensle, K. (2006). Small Steps to Health and Wealth™, Ithaca, NY: NRAES, Natural Resource, Agriculture and Engineering Service, Cooperative Extension, Ithaca, New York. Visit www.nraes.org or http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu for related topics.