A woman wearing a blue shirt and blue sun hat holds a railing of a boat and stares into the ocean.
Picture yourself at some point in the future — on a cruise, at an event, or reaching a milestone. How do you want to look and feel? Make a plan to achieve your picture of self. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Several years ago (well, a few more than several), when I was 39 years old and not happy with the size of scrubs I fit into at the hospital, I really began to think about how I wanted to be in the future.

I realized that if I couldn’t run a 5K or fit into yellow tie scrubs (the smaller scrubs) at 39, how would I be able to run a 5K or fit into anything I wanted to wear at age 60? So, I started to think about my future.

I am a very visual person, so I picked a specific age —53— and pictured myself at that age. When I am 53, my youngest child will graduate from high school, and I pictured myself at his graduation party. How did I want to look and feel at that age? At that party? To reach my goal, I knew my plan had to be very clear, so I sat down and started to develop my plan.

The following week, during a busy day in my office, I almost bumped into a patient as I rushed through the hallway.

I apologized and started to continue on my way when she stopped me and said, “You don’t remember me, do you?” I told her I did not recognize her, and she said, “During my appointment last year, you asked me how I wanted to be when I turned 50. I left your office and really thought about that question. I decided I wanted to be ‘hot’ — and now I am! I ran a 10K, and developed a new food plan that I love and can follow. I have so much more energy now, and I feel great!”

She looked amazing.

This patient really listened to what I had to say at her yearly physical, and she came up with a plan to reach a goal she set for herself.

The truth is that many women don’t have a plan for the future. It’s easy to think, “I will exercise and eat better tomorrow,” but tomorrow comes and nothing changes.

In addition, many women don’t have any plan, and they foolishly think that being healthy will just magically happen. Unfortunately, good health doesn’t just happen. It requires commitment and a detailed strategy.

This is true for all women, including those who are successful at work, successful at home and successful at being a good parent. But, all this success doesn’t mean they are also happy with their health, weight, or energy level. In other words, they don’t plan for themselves.

So, where should you begin? Every strong plan starts with a goal, and I recommend you call your goal your picture of self.

Picture of self is simply how you see yourself at a specific point in the future. It can be short term or long term—a college graduation, before you get pregnant, one year after the birth of your child, your daughter’s wedding, retirement, or an upcoming trip. It just needs to be a specific event or time where you can picture the event well and put yourself there figuratively.

You begin with visualizing the overall picture and then breaking it down into the fine details — the style of your hair, how it feels to walk into the event, how you interact with others in the room.

Creating your picture can help you start thinking about your own health both now and in the future. Then, make a plan for how to become that picture of self. Start today.