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Categories > Mental and Emotional Health > Self-improvement

Sensible ways to make things happen

Beginning a fitness program. Buying a house. Eating more fruit. Goals run the gamut from the mundane to the monumental. Often, they more closely resemble wishes (“I want a Maserati”) than something truly attainable (“Within eight months, I want to save $2,000 for a down payment on a new Chevy”). Yet done with care, goal setting can be a powerful tool for making things happen.

Choose your goals

Reflect on the important areas in your life. Think about personal, family, career, health, social and spiritual issues—things that really matter to you. Where would you like to make improvements?

Write it down

Put your goals down on paper—and use positive language. For example, “I want to become more physically fit and enjoy more energy,” not “I want to stop looking like a sack of potatoes.”

Create a plan

How long will it take to lose two dress sizes? Three months? Six months? A year? Allot a reasonable period of time and write down the specific steps that will take you there. If your goal is to become more active, your first step might be buying a pair of walking shoes. Next, you might schedule three walking sessions a week. Perhaps you’ll find a friend who wants to join you. Whatever your goal, make room for occasional lapses and special challenges. (Is a vacation coming up? Are you starting a new job? Are you moving?)

Keep track

Keep a diary, create a chart or use a calendar to monitor your progress. Research shows that people who write down everything they eat, for example, are more successful at losing excess pounds than those who don’t. Review your chart daily or weekly. Have you been following your plan? Do some steps seem too difficult? Could you push yourself a little harder? Notice your progress overall. When facing a setback, remembering how far you’ve come can get you back on track.

Star your accomplishments

Whether you smoked three fewer cigarettes, swam an extra lap or avoided getting stressed out during a traffic jam, congratulate yourself. Think about how good it feels to be in control. Tap into that feeling each time you’re tempted to make a decision that may take you further from your goal. When you finally achieve what you set out to do, take pride in your success and apply it to other areas of your life.