Step 1: Prioritize Your Goals
Start by brainstorming all the improvements you'd like to make in your life—perhaps you want to focus on your health, career advancement or becoming more involved in your community. Whatever it is, get it all down on paper and then you can begin to prioritize which one to tackle first. Would you rather focus on the most important goal, or put your energy into a smaller goal that's easily attainable? By focusing on one goal at a time, it becomes more manageable and your chance of success improves.
Step 2: Find Your Why
Any goal you set should be something you want to do, not just what you think you should do. If you want to do it, that means you have the motivation to succeed and you're more likely to follow through. Why do you want to lose weight? Is it because your doctor told you to, or is it because you are low on energy and can't keep up with your kids? Seeking out a personal and meaningful reason to improve your life will ignite the fire to keep moving forward.
Once you've identified your "why," consider your strengths and weaknesses, where you could encounter difficulties along the way and what you're willing to sacrifice to make it happen. Think about how you'll feel if you reach the goal and how you'll feel if you quit, as well. Anticipate setbacks and have a plan to deal with them. Consider building a support system that you can rely on when times get tough.
Step 3: Break the Goal Into Smaller Steps
Don't let yourself become overwhelmed with a goal that is going to take months or years to complete. Instead, break the ambitious goal into smaller action items that you post somewhere you'll see them regularly. Focusing on what you need to do today, this week and this month in order to accomplish the goal makes it more manageable, with each step inching you closer toward the finish line. The choices you make today might not seem significant when you have 100 pounds to lose, but if you add up those choices over the week or month, suddenly, you're seeing significant progress. Check in at least weekly to see how you're doing relative to expectations and make adjustments when necessary.
Remember, even if you have a million things to do, you can still only do one thing at a time.
Step 4: Celebrate Your Successes
There are intrinsic benefits such as pride and a sense of accomplishment that come from reaching goals; creating an extrinsic reward system also reinforces new habits. When you hit a major milestone on your journey, set aside 30 minutes of free time to do anything you'd like, share accomplishments with family and friends so they can celebrate your success, or buy the new pair of shoes you've had your eye on for months.
Every success, no matter how big or small, is important, so don't wait until you reach the big goal to recognize progress. Those small steps are taking you one step closer to where you want to be and, therefore, should be celebrated.
With the right mindset and a plan, you can accomplish any goal you set out to achieve. Don't let fear or feeling overwhelmed hold you back from living your best life.