We all have good intentions for positive change in our lives. We come up with great goals like losing weight, getting fit, writing a book, changing careers, quitting smoking, cutting down on caffeine. But all too often our good intentions don't last very long.
How many times have you made a New Year's resolution only to give up by February? How many times have you started a new diet on Monday only to give up by Wednesday? Here are a few ways to boost your chances of success.
1. Don't Take On Too Much: Let's say you've decided to overhaul your life. You want to lose weight, find a new career, improve your relationships, and keep your home neat and tidy.
Those are all perfectly good goals, but by tackling them all at once, you're shooting yourself in the foot before you've even begun on your journey to success. Instead of trying to take on everything all at once, pick just one or two goals to focus on. That way, you'll be far more likely to stick with them.
2. Be Accountable: Accountability is a powerful motivating force. If you're the only person who knows about your goal, it's very easy to scoff those cookies, skip that run or ignore your daily word count target on your book. When other people are involved though, you'll be much more likely to do what you said you'll do.
You can be accountable to just one person — perhaps someone who's working towards a similar goal to you. Or, if you want, you can be accountable to lots of people — how about posting your weigh-in results on Facebook, for instance?
3. Keep Track: Recording your progress has two great benefits: it lets you see how far you've come, and it encourages you to stay mindful about your goal. For instance, if you find yourself eating "just one little treat", which you know you shouldn't be having, then a food diary can help you realise how much those little extras are adding up.
There are lots of ways you can track your progress towards your goal. You might keep a spreadsheet, noting down daily or weekly activities; you could check off days on your calendar; you could keep a diary and write about how you're feeling and whether or not you're making progress. Find a technique that works for you.
4. Build on Existing Habits: Much of what we do each day is habitual. The time you get up, your morning routine, what you eat for breakfast, whether you grab a coffee on the way to work... all habit.
When you want to add new habits into your life, it can be useful to build on an existing one. For instance, if you want to get better at eating breakfast, you could try having a banana right before you jump in the shower: that way, you're less likely to forget altogether.
5. Focus on the Benefits: Sometimes, it's tough to stay motivated when you're working towards a long-term goal. It might feel like you're doing a lot of work without much reward in sight.
Remind yourself on a regular basis about why you're doing this. For instance, if you're eating a calorie-controlled diet to lose weight, the benefits of this might be that you'll be healthier and you'll feel more confident about your body.
6. Enjoy the Process: As much as you can, try to find ways to enjoy your journey towards your goal: not only will you be happier for it, you'll also be more likely to actually stick with your good intentions.
If your goal is to exercise on a regular basis, for instance, look for forms of exercise that you truly enjoy (and there'll be at least one or two)! That could be swimming, cycling, walking, running, or even something a bit quirky like fencing, playing Frisbee or trampolining! You don't have to be in the gym every day to be active.
7. Don't Think "All or Nothing": One of the reasons why we give up on goals is because we fall into an "all or nothing" mindset. If you've ever attempted to diet, you've probably experienced this: as soon as you "break" your diet by eating a bag of chips or a slice of cake, you decide that you might as well give up for the rest of the day — or the rest of the week.
However, a small slip isn't going to make a big difference to your overall progress — unless you let it. Instead of trying to be perfect, aim to work towards your goal 80 per cent of the time, and don't worry for the other 20 per cent. Yes, you might make slightly slower progress, but you'll also be much more likely to reach the finish line.
Seven Great Ways to Make Your Good Intentions Last [Dumb Little Man]
Ali Luke is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and a writing coach. She blogs about writing on her site, Aliventures.com, and has a free ebook How to Find Time For Your Writing available when you join her writing newsletter. This post was originally published by DumbLittleMan.