No matter where you turn there seems to be someone touting that they have the secret on how to lose a ton of weight or make you loads of money overnight. If it was truly a secret, could it really happen overnight? I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but even the title of this article is a little misleading. The steps might sound simple, but for many people they aren’t easy to do! Don’t get discouraged but use that truth to light a fire under your butt and do something about it! Anything worth having is worth working for. Accept that fact and the following five steps can help you achieve your goals.
Step 1: Take a different course of action.
The key words are different and action! You’re probably thinking, “It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to come to that conclusion,” but the truth is it’s impossible to change what’s going on in your life without doing something differently. The first step is to take action. I like to remind people the hardest step is the first step!
Many personal trainers tell their clients that the hardest weight to push when you finally decide to get into shape is the front door to the gym. The same is true with getting out of debt or saving money. It might not be as easy as opening a door, but it’s as easy as pulling out a Tupperware bowl, filling it with water, putting in your credit cards and then placing it in the freezer. Take action and make a commitment to yourself, and the toughest part will be behind you.
Step 2: Use the acronym ACS to set goals.
Your goals need to be Achievable, Challenging, and Specific (ACS). If your goals aren’t achievable because you set them too high, you’ll quickly become discouraged and eventually quit. If you don’t make your goals challenging, you won’t see any real change. Finally, your goals need to be specific. Don’t say your goal is to lose weight or to build up your savings. A better goal would be to lose 1-2 pounds weekly, 5 pounds in a month and lose 30 pounds by June. Don’t say you want to have more money in the bank to be in better financial shape. A better goal would be to save at least $25 a week, $100 a month and within 6 months you want to have an additional $600 in savings.
Step 3: Make a plan, write it down and be flexible.
To start your plan, conduct an initial assessment. You have to know where you’re starting from to get to where you want to be. If your goal is to complete a 5K run in less than an hour, you should know how far and how fast can you run now. If your goal is to build your savings to $1,500 by year end, determine how much you have in savings and how much you’re saving now. Once you’ve conducted your initial assessment write it down. It might be an eye opener but use that reality as motivation instead of discouragement. Your next step is to develop the steps to get you from your initial assessment to your ultimate goal. It’s the how part of what you’ll have to do. Put what you’re going to do in writing! Be flexible as you follow your plan, because there are going to be times when you might get thrown off track. Stay determined and don’t let getting off track be your excuse to quit! Deal with it, make any necessary adjustments, and get back on course. I can’t stress this enough: Put it in writing! There are several studies that show when people write down their plans, they have a higher probability of achieving their goals than people who don’t.
Step 4: Select an accountability partner.
Your chances for success will increase by simply selecting someone who will keep you accountable for your decisions. I’m not recommending you hire a personal trainer or financial planner, but simply that you need to have someone who can help you stay on track with your goals. Select someone, preferably a friend or a family member with a positive attitude who will provide you with encouragement and sometimes a swift kick in the butt when you really need it. Maintain a journal in which you record your progress. It could be a journal in which you write down what you’re eating at each meal, how much you’re exercising each day, or maybe it’s a spending journal in which you itemize exactly where your money is going. Each week, meet with your accountability partner and show him your journal. Realizing that you have to show someone your meal journal might make the difference in choosing between eating an entire carton of ice-cream or a handful of almonds instead.
Step 5: Control your emotions.
Getting into shape, whether it’s better physical shape or better financial shape, will require you to control your emotions and accept the fact that you have to change. Many people associate change with pain. Change doesn’t have to be as painful if you can focus on the results instead of the current pain. It’s mind over matter. To lose weight will require change. Choosing to eat a large pizza or a salad with fat free dressing is a change in your eating habits. The same principle applies when you make purchases. A $4.00 latte doesn’t sound extravagant, but if you purchase one every day, that adds up to $120 in a month. Embrace change. Don’t allow your emotions to focus on what you have to give up now, but rather the prize you’ll get when you accomplish your goals!
I’m sorry to tell you that there aren’t any secrets or shortcuts. Your situation won’t change until you want it to change and only when you do something differently about it. Set your goals high, but keep them realistic and specific. Put your plans in writing and pick someone who can help keep you accountable. Don’t allow your emotions to derail you when you get off track but accept change as your only solution to the answer for achieving positive results. I have no doubt if you’ll follow these steps, there isn’t anything you can’t accomplish!
What changes have you made? What steps would you add?