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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sticking with it

Forming new habits is hard.  How many of us start each year with a resolution to quit smoking/ lose weight/ start a diary/ get our finances in order or any number of other things only to lose interest and motivation mere weeks later? Down the track we remember what it was that we were planning to do and what happens then?  Do we take ourselves on a guilt trip?  Do we beat ourselves up over our lack of self-discipline?  It's not difficult to take a hit to our self-esteem if we acknowledge that we failed in our goal.  So we often justify to ourselves why it was never going to work in the first place, or instead try to forget that we ever set that goal or downplay its significance.

You don't have to accept failure from yourself for anything.  The goals that you set, or even a slight whim that you would like to happen doesn't have to be completely out of reach.  Here are five simple things that you can do to achieve the goals that you set for yourself:

1.  Don't be too hard on yourself.
You slipped up.  Big deal.  Life happens.  Acknowledge the positive.  You set a goal... That's a big step towards achieving it.  Good for you.  You started to move towards achieving that goal.  Another big step, another commendation.  You lasted ...... days!  Woohooo!

2. Don't play catchup.
Okay so you were going to eat better food and exercise half an hour a day.  You lasted two weeks then spent three days eating only chocolate cake.  This does not mean that you have to starve yourself tomorrow and exercise for a full hour and a half.  Acknowledge that you tried.  Acknowledge that you slipped up and start again tomorrow with the original plan.  This goes for your financial goals as well.  You may have decided to save $100 per week and did really well for three weeks then something happened and you didn't get to save for a month.  Don't try to find the extra $400 in the next pay check.  Acknowledge that life happened, and begin again with the original plan. Save only the $100 and try to stick with it for longer this time.

3.  Reevaluate your goals
Just because you said you were going to save $100 per week doesn't mean this isn't flexible.  If you goal was too ambitious, adjust it.  You tried it, it didn't work, this doesn't mean that the plan was no good in its entirety.  Perhaps you would be better to save only $50 per week.  Keep trying until you find a goal that you can stick with.

4.  Move your deadline.
If your plan was to achieve something by a certain time, and you realise that this is all of a sudden impossible, that doesn't mean that it can't happen eventually.  You want to save $5000 for an overseas trip in September but you're $2000 short.  Does that mean that you give up on your dream?  Heck no!  Keep saving... even at a slower rate if need be, but you can go next year can't you?  If you give up now, all you'll do is lose your confidence and possibly blow the money you have already saved on something that gives you no real pleasure.

5.  Get a coach.
It's much easier to stick with your goals if you share them with someone.  Having someone meet you at the gym for a workout is far more motivating than going on your own.  You don't want to let your friend down so you make the effort to go.  The same goes with any goal.  Get a friend or mentor to keep in touch with you on a regular basis to see how you are going and keep you accountable.  You'll find it harder to put off the work you need to do if you know that you will be getting a phone call in the next week checking up on your progress.  Professional coaches can also help you to find realistic goals and give you the tools that you need to achieve them.  Also, if you are paying for the service, you are far more likely to keep yourself accountable because your wallet depends on it.

Give yourself permission to succeed by not giving yourself an excuse to fail.  An to finish on a cliche: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

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