It’s not enough to just want extreme confidence, passion about your pursuits, the talent of a stellar athlete, or a body like Katy Perry. To achieve your goal, what you need is a plan; and one that is well thought out.
The first step for making any change is to do a self-inventory. Are you really ready to change? Or, is it something you “kind of” want to do? If it’s the latter, you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead of diving right in, read my article, Prepare Yourself for Change in 4 Basic Steps.
When you have the right mindset to do the work, use these 3 guidelines for creating a strategy for personal improvement:
Set a specific and realistic goal. As you dream of a better self, it is easy for your hopes and desires to pull you into setting high expectations. These can easily set you up to be disappointed with more modest progress, leading you to feel like you’ve failed – and then, of course, to give up.
In setting up your realistic goal, you must be specific. This way you’ll know what you are reaching for – and when you’ve achieved it.
Example: You want to lose 10 pounds and keep it off. It is realistic to assume you can lose 1-2 pounds a week with healthy eating (no crash diets). With all of this in mind, your goal might be: I will lose 10 pounds within the next two months.
Decide on a specific plan. The more thought out and detailed your plan, the better chance you have of reaching your goal. Otherwise, you leave it to making impulsive, last-minute decisions. And that is not a good thing! Also, without a plan to maximize your chances of succeeding, you are likely to rely on willpower, which rarely works consistently. So, it’s a setup for failure.
Example: I will develop and follow a healthy meal plan that will allow me to lose 1-2 pounds a week until I lose 10 pounds. This plan will include eating 3 meals and 3 snacks each day – one after each meal. I will not eat after 8pm. After achieving my goal of losing 10 pounds, I’ll tweak what I’m eating to maintain my weight. (You might want to be even more specific with outlining your meal plan.)
Prepare yourself for set-backs. Almost everyone has setbacks in their efforts to achieve their goals. How you respond to these can make all the difference between success and failure. So, think about this even before you start.
Remind yourself that making mistakes and having setbacks are part of the big picture for everyone. If you get right back to your plan, these don’t need to be a serious problem. If you tend to be self-critical and thinking this way is difficult, it might help to write a supportive letter to your future self who has made a poor choice. In it, offer yourself compassion for how difficult it is to stay the course and how frustrating it is when you make a mistake. Leave the letter in an easily accessible place; and be sure to pull it out when you feel like giving up.
These three steps are powerful tools if used when you are ready to change. No matter what, change is not easy. It takes effort. It takes persistence. It takes self-compassion to carry you past missteps. But in the end, if you follow these steps and reach inside for motivation and emotional support, you will find a way to achieve your goals.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset in Somerville, NJ. She is also a regular contributor for the WebMD blog Relationships and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships Message Board.
Dr. Becker-Phelps is also the author of Insecure in Love.
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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate self-awareness