When a new year starts, many of us see this as an opportunity to start fresh. We have grand plans to change something significant in our lives and vow that THIS year, I will finally . . . (fill in the blank). Soon after January begins, we have forgotten what we were so determined to do and we fall into our usual behaviors. Why does this happen?

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Without careful planning, it is very difficult to make changes to our lifestyle. It isn’t difficult to do, but many of us forget to do this important step.

Research: When setting a new goal, the first step is to do some research. Look up some tips, tricks, hacks or articles that can give you some advice about the best way to reach your goal.

For example, if I wanted to quit smoking, or learn how to organize my closet, or buy a new puppy, the first thing I would do is research and educate myself on the best way to accomplish it. You may find some invaluable insights that will help make this journey easier or quicker. You may also prevent yourself from wasting time by trying things that don’t work. Take notes on what you discover about your goal.

Plan: Now that you have done some research, you are ready to make a plan. Decide what works for you. Write out your plan so you have a guideline to follow.

For example, let’s use the quit smoking goal. You have researched many options and you decide to see a doctor, get a patch, and allow yourself one year to reach your goals. That’s your plan. Let’s say you want to buy a new puppy. After your research, you decide on what breed is best for you, made a list of supplies you need, and choose a training schedule to follow. That’s your plan.

Step-by-Step: Once you have a plan, break it into tiny, achievable steps. How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.

Continuing with the quit smoking goal, your first step might be to set an appointment with your doctor. Your second step could be to make a list of questions to discuss at that appointment. Another step could include throwing away all your cigarettes. And so on.

One Day at a Time: Just like we must take one step at a time, we also must take one day at a time. When we are working towards a challenging goal, it may become discouraging when it is so difficult. At those moments, just remind yourself that you just need to focus on that one day. Tomorrow, do the same.

For example, quitting a habit that perhaps has been part of your life for years, isn’t going down without a fight! You may slip up and that’s okay. Just get back on your plan and start again. Often when people are dieting to lose weight, myself included, we slip up and eat that chocolate cake! At that point it is easy to throw up your hands and give up. But don’t. Just start again.

Accountability: Try to find a partner that will either go on the journey with you or at least support you on yours. You are still, first and foremost, accountable to yourself but it is nice to have someone cheering for you along the way.

Be careful though when two of you are trying to stop smoking or trying to lose weight. If one of you falls off the plan, it may take the other off the plan as well. So think ahead and decide what you will do if your partner chooses to keep smoking or stop dieting.

Reward Yourself: Create a list of rewards for each accomplishment you achieve along the way to your goal. It is important to celebrate yourself and your hard work. These rewards need to be enticing enough to make you want to earn them.

Here are some examples of rewards: eating at your favorite restaurant, buy that new item, take a bubble bath, visit a friend, buy a new item of clothing, indulge in a favorite dessert, etc. Of course, rewards should not sabotage your goal, such as eating chocolate as a reward for losing 2 more pounds or buying a new lighter if you are stopping smoking.

Have Determination: Winners never quit, and quitters never win. If you quit, you will not reach your goal. It is that simple. Even if you mess up a little or don’t stick to your plan perfectly, start again. Start as many times as you must as long as you don’t give up! You will get there if you keep trying.

One thing that might help is to create a reason for your goal. Often people lose weight before going on a cruise in the summer. It isn’t the best for keeping the extra weight off unless you make some real lifestyle changes, however, it can help you to be motivated in the beginning.

You don’t have to wait for next January to make changes in your life or reach your dreams. You can set and reach goals throughout the year, each month, each week, or each day. Keep your life moving forward by following these steps each time you want to set a new goal. You are worth the effort to attain all your goals in life!

 

Featured photo by Dawid Zawila on Unsplash.