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action plan 02/23 - plus sticking with your goals

Posted Feb 23 2009 9:38pm

One of my favorite blogs is The Happiness Project. While I don’t agree with everything Gretchen has to say, she always provides me with food for thought.

In this post last month, she writes about keeping your New Year’s Resolution. She has some really good tips and let’s face it, they apply to all of our goal setting.


1. Be specific. That’s what we’re talking about in our action plans - be as specific as possible. I still find that challenging. I’m not a scheduler by nature. So, I tend to think this is a “know thyself” area. Be as specific as you can be, leave room to make it work for you.

2. Write it down. Writing it down makes a big difference to me. We’ve been using an action plan from Stanford University. It doesn’t work for you? Make whatever changes you need to make it meaningful for you! (plus, since only TDW is playing along these days, I’m not going to keep reposting the form. Click on “Action Planning” in the blog categories list to see all the posts about this topic.)

3. Review your goal constantly. Does it “slip your mind”? I suspect I actively try to forget I’ve got an exercise goal. The more it’s right there in front of you, reminding you to follow through, the better. Just do it in a positive way. I’m in total disagreement with those who do things like stick a picture of a pig on the fridge. That’s not a positive goal, that’s constant negative self messages. Still, I guess, whatever works for you!

4. Hold yourself accountable. Tell other people about your goal, join or form a like-minded group, sit down at the end of each day or week or month and tally how well you did on your goal. That’s part of why I’m writing about it here - making it public. I have everyone who reads these blogs both cheering for me and holding me accountable to do what I’ve said I’m going to do.

5. Think big. Maybe you need a big change. Just because your goal isn’t something that can be accomplished in a week doesn’t mean you don’t include it on your list. Allow yourself to imagine really big changes - then break them into smaller steps for actual action planning.

6. Think small. “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that only radical change can make a difference.” Remember the power of the gradual. When you do one small thing every day it grows to be a big thing.

7. Ask for help. Why do so many of us refuse to ask for help? It’s okay not to be able to do everything on your own! Plus, don’t forget that helping others often helps you. So, look for ways to help other people achieve their goals as well.

8. Consider making only positive resolutions. Are you someone who sets “improvement” goals and then feels terrible because you not only have you failed at forcing yourself to do something really hard - but you needed improving in the first place? Consider reframing your goal to view the change more positively. Instead of setting a goal to lose weight, maybe you need a goal to learn healthy eating strategies or gourmet low-fat cooking. Losing weight is hard and has a lot of negative feelings attached to it. Learning about healthy eating or learning new cooking techniques sounds like it might be fun!

9. Consider giving up a resolution. “If you keep making and breaking a resolution, consider whether you should relinquish it entirely. Put your energy toward changes that are both realistic and helpful.” You know, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Maybe it’s time to let go of a goal. Maybe you need to remake it into a more realistic goal or change the goal entirely. I could keep setting the goal to go to the gym every day for the rest of my life and I can pretty much guarantee I am never going to achieve it. So, find the plan that is right for you.

10. Set a deadline. Vague goals are hard to meet. If you have a goal of getting your taxes done on time, you know you have until April 15th in the US. What if there was no deadline? Would you ever finish your taxes?

12. Don’t give up if something interferes with your deadline. Be flexible. If you have some health issues getting in the way of your exercise goal - don’t beat yourself up about it. Readjust your goal and get back to work. If you see that interruption as a failure, you are less likely to want to go back to work on the goal.

13. “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” -Voltaire Remember, we are talking about building on success, not setting yourself up for failure. Another quote I like in this area is, “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” -Harriet Braiker

So what other strategies would you add that help you keep your goals or resolutions?

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