Some of us excel at seeing the big picture, and others are better prepared to just roll up their sleeves and work. If you’re trying to do something you’ve never done before, you’ll need to be able to do both.

Goals: Goals are the end results we want. Examples include “do a pull-up unassisted,” “jog for a half hour without stopping,” and “lose [x] pounds.”

Steps: Steps are how you get to the goal. Examples include following a program with a mix of exercises that build strength and familiarity with the pull-up movement, complete the Couch to 5k program, and eat less while moving more.

Ah, we sneaked a ringer in there. Eat less and move more aren’t steps. They’re strategies.

It’s a common confusion. People (especially doctors, unfortunately) toss out “eat less” and “move more” as if that’s the only information you need. In a way it’s understandable. There is such an immense range of food and activity preferences, schedules, financial constraints, and other environmental issues to consider, it’s very hard to suggest a single action that is guaranteed to help everyone with a weight-loss or health-improvement goal.

Strategy: An overall plan or vision for accomplishing a major or overarching goal.

Tactics: Specific actions that operate within a strategy (or that can spoil one).

As a middle-school teacher of mine loved to say (of flubbed homework projects): “You didn’t plan to fail — you failed to plan.” And a plan needs more detail than “write a 10-page paper” — or “eat less.” Most of us need directions — or at least a map — to get somewhere we’ve never been. Steps and tactics are those navigation tools.

The skills category at this website is all about concrete actions and steps to support choices and goals for healthier eating and exercise. Part of the process is figuring out which actions you can take. Start with the actions that sounds the easiest to take — getting a Win on the board will get you ready to do more.

Image: South Park’s Underpants Gnomes have no idea why they’re doing it.


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