“The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.” –Melody Beattie
I want to quit smoking. I want to lose weight. I want to exercise more. I want to be more organized. I want to travel more. I want to form deeper relationships. I want to be a “better person”. I want to change my career. I want to go into business for myself. I want to be happy. Many make BIG New Year’s resolutions that end in February. When I was a personal trainer, many people started working with me in January. By the time February hit, there were missed training sessions, and a good number fell off altogether, including not coming into the gym--even though they kept paying for their monthly memberships. How do you stick to it, and make the change you have resolved would benefit your life?
Personally, I am one of those people that will not do something unless I really want to. If I really do not want to change something, I just won’t. Also, making too big of a resolution, or too many of them, can be overwhelming. Then incorporating this new thing or habit into your life is work.
One of my favorite quotes is from the pre-Socratic philosopher, Hericlitus.—“You cannot change and remain the same.” Making a change into a new lifestyle is personal growth, for the benefit of living your days happy and fulfilled. What can you do to give yourself the best chance at achieving change—whether it is for the new year, or something that you know would improve the quality of your life if you did it? Here’s a question:
What is the one thing you would work on changing this year that would benefit you the most?
Once you’ve figured out what you’d like to change, and it is doable, here are some things that can help you stay on track.
Take baby steps. Take small, easy steps. I have advised this to my clients quite a bit. You want to set yourself up for success in whatever change you decide to make. Breaking down big steps into smaller ones can help you move towards accomplishing your bigger goal easier. I was introduced to writings of the motivational author SARK in grad school. Her books are very colorful, and she has self-improvement exercises throughout them. She calls baby steps, “micromovements”. SARK describes herself as a, “recovering procrastinator and perfectionist with a short attention span. She came up with micromovements as a way to help her complete projects in times of 5 minutes or less. Sark states:
“All of my 11 published books, posters, cards and company exist due to many thousands and thousands of micromovements all strung together.”
SARK adds that it’s important to write down each micromovement with a day and a time. Change is always going to be a process. Keep moving forward towards your goal.
As an example, if you wholeheartedly wanted to give yourself the best chance at getting up the same time every day, one way you could do it is to create a new morning routine, modifying it bit by bit every few days until you make getting up at the same time a habit. If you would like a step-by-step process, a colleague of mine swears by SMART goals. Is your goal Specific? How can you Measure it? Is it Achievable? Is it Realistic? Is it Time-based? Here is more information on SMART goals. Make sure to scroll down, above the comments section, for a download of the SMARTER goals template to see if that might help you define your goal. https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php
Don’t beat yourself up. Nobody is perfect. Change, again, is a process. Things may get in your way of your goal, or make it harder to attain. That’s okay. Forgive yourself when you have a tough time making a change. Assess what happened. Pay attention to how things may have caused you to fall “off track”, and do what you can to get back on. If you got off track, that means you were on track! Keep moving forward!
Celebrate your micromovements. Just as important as giving yourself a break if you do not complete everything 100% perfectly, it’s just as important to cheer yourself on as you are moving towards your goal. It feels good when someone compliments or praises your achievements. Why not praise yourself when you complete or check off another step towards your bigger goal? As you achieve one small goal after another, you’ll feel it easier to keep moving forward. You’re giving yourself positive reinforcement, and you’ll enjoy looking forward to praise, or maybe even small rewards for your diligence!
Find an accountability partner. It is okay to ask for help. Finding someone to be accountable with has worked for many of my therapy clients. To have to work on things outside of counseling sessions, and come back the next week to “report” how things went, has helped. If we find that the goal we’ve collaborated on turned out to be just too much too soon, we take a step back, and work on those baby steps, or micromovements. Find an accountability partner that works for you and your personality. You can also seek out someone that is trying to reach the same goal as you, and cheer each other on. Create an environment for your success. If things are getting in your way, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate those people, places, or things. Gather as many positive accountability partners as you can if that’s what you need. You do not have to rely solely upon sheer willpower. Support matters.
Keep track of your progress. What works for you to keep yourself accountable? Is it placing a gold star on a calendar when you do well? When you get a good number of gold stars for the week, that may motivate you to keep on collecting them. I believe we need to give ourselves more gold stars in our adult lives! Maybe writing down on a chart, or in a journal, exactly what you did that day to help you move towards your bigger goal will help you see how you’re doing as you do it, which also allows for you to look back on all the progress you’ve made if you do have a slip.
If you’re passionate about what you want to change, you have a better chance of achieving it. What are you going to be passionate about this year?
Feel free to drop me a note in an email, follow my Motivational Monday posts on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/Amy.Enkling.Counseling/; or reach out if the change you are trying to make is proving overwhelming, harmful to your health, or if you want someone to help keep you accountable. May this be YOUR year!
1. Take baby steps.
2. Don’t beat yourself up.
3. Celebrate your micromovements.
4. Find an accountability partner.
5. Keep track of your progress.