How HPO, other resources aid Pathfinders in self-improvement

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason W. Cochran
  • 501CSW/PA

New Year’s resolutions are great motivators to change an undesirable behavior or to reinforce a positive one. These resolutions, however, are notoriously difficult to keep.

Fortunately, for members of the 501st Combat Support Wing, there are agencies and services that can aid in the behavior changing process.

“I think people tend to come in very gung-ho without a lot of structure,” said Steven Gonzalez, 501st CSW Human Performance Optimization strength and conditioning specialist. “Usually people will come in with very little in the way of an action plan, they don't know what times to come in, what to do if things go wrong or who is going to keep them accountable.”

Whether people are trying to spend more time in the gym, spend less time on their phones or quit smoking, there are pitfalls.

The same steps he suggests for changing people's physical habits are applicable to changing behavior patterns, regardless of the habit.

According to Gonzalez, first, a person should make a SMART goal; one that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. This makes a person define a fairly specific plan from the onset. The next step is arguably the most crucial.

“After making a SMART goal, it’s important to find people to help, both people who can tell you what to do, like personal trainers, and crucially an accountability buddy,” said Gonzalez. “From my role as a coach I usually really lean on accountability since that’s the easiest and least accusatory point for me to chime in on.”

Examples of accountability partners can be coworkers, members of the HPO team, or family and friends. After finding accountability, a person should start implementing their plan as soon as possible.

“A lot of times we wait for those big moments, like New Years, to try to make changes,” said Gonzalez. “But really, the sooner you can start to build that momentum the better. Even if you start something in the new year and then falter and find yourself in March or April, as soon as the thought crosses your mind, start back at it.”

The final step recommended by Gonzalez is to change one’s self perception to include this new behavior.

“The other day I heard someone say ‘I’m going to try to go to the gym more this year, but we’ll see how that goes’ and right from the start in their mind it is just something that they’re not as committed to,” said Gonalez. “The alternative is they can tell themselves ‘I’m going to be a gym rat this year and just go every day’ and that’s more beneficial. As long as they are getting to the gym, [does not have to be everyday], it still builds habit.”

Gonzalez emphasized that the four steps outlined are applicable to changing behavior patterns regardless of what they are related to.

“Recently I was at the dentist and they told me that I had to floss more,” said Gonzalez. “Now that I look back on it, I would have established that habit sooner if I had followed these steps, especially if I had found an accountability buddy.”

Members of the 501st CSW can find direction and accountability from a variety of resources and agencies. Human Performance Optimization, Fitness Center employees, and certain medical services to name a few are available to help people maximize their full potential.

“The most important thing I’d say to people trying to better themselves is to be patient with yourself,” said Gonzalez. “When goals aren’t going well humans have a tendency to get frustrated and give up. Failure is normal. If you are patient with yourself, trust the process, remember your goals and pick yourself up, then you’ll eventually see success.”

Active Duty personnel interested in utilizing HPO services can contact (DSN 268-1504) for more information.