Seven steps to shape your personal planShaping your personal plan starts with setting your first goal. Break down choices that feel overwhelming into tiny steps that can help you succeed.
- Select a goal. Choose a goal that is the best fit for you. It may not be the first goal you feel you should choose. But you're much more likely to succeed if you set priorities that are compelling to you and feel attainable at present.
- Ask a big question. Do I have a big dream that pairs with my goal? A big dream might be running a marathon or climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, wiggling back into a closet full of clothes you love, cutting back on blood pressure medication, or playing games and sports energetically with your children. One word to the wise: if you can't articulate a big dream, don't get hung up on this step. You can still succeed in moving toward your goal through these other approaches.
- Pick your choice for change. Select a choice that feels like a sure bet. Do you want to eat healthier, stick to exercise, diet more effectively, ease stress? It's best to concentrate on just one choice at a time. When a certain change fits into your life comfortably, you can then focus on the next change.
- Commit yourself. Make a written or verbal promise to yourself and one or two supporters you don't want to let down: your partner or child, a teacher, doctor, boss, or friends. That will encourage you to slog through tough spots. Be explicit about the change you've chosen and why it matters to you. If it's a step toward a bigger goal, include that, too. I'm making a commitment to my health by planning to take a mindful walk, two days a week. This is my first step to a bigger goal: doing a stress-reducing activity every day (and it helps me meet another goal: getting a half-hour of exercise every day). I want to do this because I sleep better, my mood improves, and I'm more patient with family and friends when I ease the stress in my life.
- Scout out easy obstacles. Maybe you'd love to try meditating, but can't imagine having the time to do it. Or perhaps your hopes for eating healthier run aground if you're hungry when you walk through the door at night, or your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator aren't well-stocked with healthy foods.
- Brainstorm ways to leap over obstacles. Now think about ways to overcome those roadblocks. Not enough time? I'll get up 20 minutes early for exercises and fit in a 10-minute walk before lunch. Cupboard bare of healthy choices? I'll think about five to 10 healthy foods I enjoy and will put them on my grocery list.
- Plan a simple reward. Is there a reward you might enjoy for a job well done? For example, if you hit most or all of your marks on planned activities for one week, you'll treat yourself to a splurge with money you saved by quitting smoking, a luxurious bath, or just a double helping of trhe iTunes application "Attaboy." Try to steer clear of food rewards, since this approach can be counterproductive.