5 Steps to Making Positive Changes

Whether this is the year you are determined to get back into shape, de-clutter your house, be more stylish, or simply enjoy some much-needed me time, look to these five steps to help you achieve your goals.
5 Steps to Making Positive Changes
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1. Decide What (and Whether) You Really Want to Change

One of the most critical steps is actually deciding what about your life you want to change, and whether you will decide to make a goal to achieve that change. Own your potential and the vision that you have for yourself,” says Elizabeth A Garcia, Coach for Success, a motivational speaker and life coach based in Los Angeles (www.mycoachliz.com and on Facebook/mycoachliz). Being able to visualize whatever success means to you will really be critical to you getting there.

“I find often that there are many people that have these desires, but we listen to the messages in our heads about what we cannot do,” Garcia says. “This requires finding the courage to making these changes and committing to doing the necessary work.” Be willing to work through fear of failure, override negative messages.

2. Choose a Specific Goal Wisely

Select the one or two resolutions that you most want, are most able to undertake, and that make sense for your life now. Also, use specific language about your goals. Instead of saying “I want to lose weight,” or “I want to go back to school,” say “I want to lose 20 pounds,” and “I want to enroll in a university online course in the Spring 2011 semester.”

Be mindful of the language you use when you state your goals, Garcia recommends. She often hears women say what they won’t do, but not what they WILL be doing to achieve their goals. When you phrase your goal using action words, and say “This is what I am going to do” you create an intention, she says. “I said I wasn’t going to be smoking, but what will I be doing now? If we don’t have a replacement action, we can fall back into the old behavior.

3. Plan for Success

We all know the old adage, ‘if you fail to plan, you plan to fail’ for good reason. Nothing can arm you to follow through with your resolutions like a well-thought out plan. “The perspective needs to be one of a year-long plan. You don’t change your habits in a week or even a month. Make a plan that includes weekly, monthly and quarterly benchmarks,” she suggests. After three months, review your successes, where you are in the process, the actions you have taken and how realistic your goal. Take a look at your progress quarterly allow yourself room to make changes or tweaks.

Also be realistic with your plan and take into account what you are willing to do to reach your goal. “If you know waking up early isn’t your favorite thing to do, don’t create a plan that has you waking up at 5 AM to exercise,” she says.

4. Keep Yourself Accountable

Now that you have a plan, follow it! If you have carved out some time in your busy schedule for exercise, reading, me time, etc, use that time just for that. “Use a chart,” writes Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project on her website. “Having made a resolution, you have to check yourself in some way.” Even something as simple as putting a checkmark on the calendar marking each day you followed your plan can be a good way to document your success. When you aren’t able to follow through with your plan, jot down why. Over time you’ll see what obstacles are most often in your way.

“One of the things that I think is really important to remember that we are human,” says Garcia. “Changing your habits and behaviors is not something that happens from one day to the next. If you slip up, acknowledge that it is part of the process and move forward.

5. Celebrate your successes

There is no denying the importance of positive reinforcement, that which comes from within, but too that which comes from our supporters. “A lot of us are taught not to brag about ourselves,” says Garcia. “But it’s ok to tell people what we are doing and to say we are proud of ourselves. Our friends and family want us to success. Give them the opportunity to celebrate you.” A pat on the back is a powerful motivator to keep going.