Looking to make changes in your life? Here are 5 simple things you can do to increase your chances of success:
CLIMB ONE MOUNTAIN AT A TIME
Do you set too many goals for yourself? Are you working hard for that promotion while trying to lose weight, finish your degree online and renovate your house?
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and pulled in too many directions when we set up too many goals for ourselves.
There are countless activities we can incorporate to get us firmly on the road to making progress, but it’s important to remember that it is impossible to make a lot of big changes all at once and do it well.
To succeed in reaching your goals, it’s important to prioritize. Look at what’s most important for the short term, what’s most important for the long term, what can be put on the back burner (or outsourced) for the time being, or even removed.
To get the best results, work toward one to three goals at most. Even better: if you are working on more than one goal at a time, find some overlap between them. For example, if you want to organize your space and are trying to earn more money, having a yard sale is a single effort that could contribute to both of those goals!
SET AND CELEBRATE MILESTONES
Have you ever taken a long road trip? If so, chances are you knew exactly where the halfway point to your destination was. You probably also identified pit stops for refueling, getting meals, and bio-breaks. (The odds of this are exponentially greater if you were travelling with kids or pets!)
When you set a goal for yourself, map it out as you would a road trip: What is the halfway point? What does it look like to be a quarter of the way there, or two-thirds?
These steps to your larger goal are milestones on your journey, and they should be celebrated! The more achievable and realistic your milestones are, the greater your chance for success in hitting your ultimate target.
For example, let’s say your goal is to walk 5 miles a day after many years of a sedentary lifestyle. Your chances for success are increased by setting achievable mini-goals along the way. In Week 1, perhaps you set a goal to walk around the block 2-3 times per week. Then, in Week 2, you increase the distance. In Week 3, you increase the frequency.
By making an incremental, achievable change, each week you are getting closer to your goal of walking 5 miles per day.
You won’t get there overnight, but with small, consistent actions it’s easier to stay on a direct path to your target, and to avoid unscheduled pit-stops and detours along the way.
CREATE A VISUAL PROGRESS TRACKER
Have you ever seen a thermometer graph used in a fund-raising event by an organization? The thermometer “fills up” as fundraising progress is made, offering a quick and easy visual to show how much has been raised and how much more needs to come in before hitting the fundraising goal.
Businesses understand the value of visual progress trackers. There are numerous tools that display visual dashboards with graphs, gauges, and percentages complete. Each display tracks progress for an organizational goal. These dashboard widgets quickly communicate a lot of information about progress status. Further, they help everyone viewing them stay focused and prioritized.
What are some ways you can create a visual representation of progress for your own goals?
One of the most creative ways I’ve found to track my weight loss I found on Pinterest. I set up two jars. In one, labelled “Pounds to Lose” I placed a marble for each pound I wanted to drop. Then with each pound I lost, I transferred a marble into the second jar, labelled “Pounds Destroyed.”
The sound of each marble transferring to the “Pounds Destroyed” jar is delightful. It’s a motivating representation, reminding me of how far I have come, and the starting jar keeps me focused on what more I need to do to meet my target.
TELL PEOPLE ABOUT YOUR PLANS
Accountability partners help us reach our goals. Sharing your goals with friends, family, or on social media is a good way to hold yourself accountable to to keeping the daily practices that help you achieve them.
Even better, sharing our accomplishments and the milestones we have met not only gives us a greater sense of pride in our achievement, but it can help motivate others in their success journeys as well.
Be public about what you intend to accomplish. You may be surprised at the amount of support you get… and give.
GIVE IT TIME
It’s hard to escape the buzz around setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are targets that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. As a general rule, I am a fan of S.M.A.R.T. goals.
But what happens when the timeline you initially set for yourself comes and goes, and you’ve only made partial progress?
Perhaps you were derailed by circumstances outside of your control like the loss of a job loss, or a family illness.
Making only partial progress in a desired direction is never truly a failure, unless we let ourselves become discouraged and fall into patterns of behavior that effectively undo any of the progress we may have made.
Think of it this way: if one tire on your car goes flat, does it make sense to puncture the other three tires?
No. The same is true when we don’t exactly hit the mark we set for ourselves initially. Here’s a fun fact: when you miss the mark on a target, you can try again. You can keep practicing and improving your performance until you do hit the mark.
So, are timelines in goal setting irrelevant?
Quite the opposite. Establishing time-sensitive goals is essential for measuring progress and evaluating what works for you and what doesn’t.
Changing a habit (or acquiring one) requires a motivation, dedication, and persistence. It requires reflection and a willingness to change what behavior isn’t working so you can replace it with another behavior that might.
Achieving your stated goal is made easier through making consistent and realistic changes to your daily practice. Be persistent, be dedicated, but also be kind to yourself.
Self improvement is a marathon, not a sprint.