How to Maintain Your Commitment to Personal Goals
Set “realistic” goals to help you make personal changes that last for a lifetime
Posted Apr 23, 2019
Any personal change you would like to make will be a process…a journey. And, as the Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Without that first step, there is no change. This simple aphorism can be powerfully motivating when you apply it to your personal aspirations.
If you really want to change, you must know yourself and the dream you want to aspire to. Then focus on the first step before you. Make it one that you can commit to and that is a realistic goal. Again, this means knowing yourself. It does not matter how small the step is as long as you know you can commit to including it in your life. There are many ways you can apply this tactic to help you change. For instance, consider these goals:
Exercise: You want to take a brisk 30-minute walk for exercise four days a week, but you feel overwhelmed at the thought of starting. You might decide that you can commit to putting on your workout clothes four days a week, but you aren’t sure you would actually walk on a regular basis, or that you could really make it for the whole 30 minutes. So, you make getting dressed to exercise your indicator of success. Once dressed, you are likely to feel you can do a little more, such as walking to the mailbox at the end of your driveway. When that becomes easily within your reach, you might decide you can walk a little farther. But always, so long as you dress to exercise, acknowledge that you’ve met your realistic goal. You can feel good about that. Because you really do want to exercise, your desire to do so will motivate you, more days than not, to continue toward your aspirational goal of briskly walking 30 minutes fours days a week.
Meditation: You want to incorporate meditation into your daily routine. You have even picked out a meditation app. As much as you’d like to achieve this goal, you don’t believe you have the patience or discipline to sit quietly for any length of time. You think you get too distracted. Still, you want to add meditation into your life, so you think about what you can commit to. You decide that you would be able to make sitting in a particular spot in your home the first thing you do each morning. You don’t know if you could sit for any longer than one minute, but you can at least do that. So, you make that your realistic goal. Some days it is all you can do to get up and go to your meditation place. At those times, you sit for your one minute—no more. But most of the time you discover that you want to meditate for a bit longer. By maintaining your commitment to do your realistic goal, you find, with time, that you develop a meditation practice that you can—and do—maintain.
This approach to change relies on you setting an aspirational goal that you truly want to attain and a realistic goal that is attainable even when you are not feeling motivated. At this point, you may be thinking that such “realistic” goals are so small that they don’t mean much of anything. But don’t be so sure. It’s no small thing to commit to doing any particular thing for the duration of your life, or at least for your foreseeable future. Meeting your realistic goal is a success for you because it allows you to consistently keep your chosen path a part of your life…a part of the long journey ahead. Even if you get sick, or injured, or some other life events take you off course, returning to your path won’t be so difficult—and so you will be much more likely to do just that.
Be sure to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings while giving this a try. With this self-awareness, you may learn that you need to adjust what you are doing. Maybe you need to start more simply. Maybe you will notice that you’ve stepped off the path and need to reconnect with your aspirational goal; and then recommit to your realistic goal. But by giving this approach a try, you will likely discover the amazing power that just getting started with a realistic goal will have in changing your life for good.
If you would like to learn more about this topic, check out this brief video:
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.
Making change through compassionate self-awareness