Change Your Life In 30 Days

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Studies have shown that it takes 30 days to make (or break) a habit. Here's a game plan for setting goals that work.

• Health: How-To

A smoker who wants to quit has a greater likelihood of kicking the habit if he or she can refrain for 30 days. If you're starting a new diet or work out plan, most people start off strong with good intentions, but slowly fade, give up, or become discouraged after a few days. The trick is to stick to a routine for 30 days so that a pattern has a chance to take hold both physically and mentally.

It sounds simple, but most people simply won’t stay committed to a 30 day goal. Why is that? It’s because they lack 3 things - motivation, commitment, and clarity.

Here’s an example. A friend of yours is training for a triathlon and asks you to attend the race. Reluctantly you go, but after watching the athletes push themselves to finishline, you become inspired to workout. The next day after work, you dust off the Nike’s and go for a run. Good for you! You’re excited and motivated to get in shape. But after a few days, the memory of how you felt watching the triathlon starts to fade. You had a super hectic day at the office, and nothing sounds better than grabbing a beer and watching an episode of “Cops”. And so it goes.

So how do we keep the fire burning for a 30-day commitment for self-improvement? Let’s come up with a game plan to make it happen.

Be clear in your mind and heart why you want to accomplish this 30-day goal. Would you be more motivated if your life depended upon it? I’m sure you would. You should feel it to your core why it is you MUST accomplish the goal. Talk is cheap, but when you FEEL an urgency to accomplish a goal, your on the path to make it happen. Make a list of reasons why your setting the goal. Why is this goal different than goals you've set in the path? And what is your life going to be like if you don't accomplish it? Find your motivation.

Be clear and specific. Your goal should be realistically accomplishable in 30 days. Everyone should allow themselves to have “over the top” dream goals, but we’re working the building blocks for a 30-day success plan. So get clarity on your goal - and don’t sell yourself short. A clear example of a goal is “I am going on a walk every day for 30 minutes". Or "I will play a game of online chess everyday". What ever the goal is, get clear.

We know why we’re doing it. We know what we’re going to do. Now let’s make a contract with ourselves by writing down exactly what the goal is and post it someplace you can see it everyday. Be specific and courageous with your written goal. Write down how you will feel after 30 days. We all make commitments to others, so why don’t we make a commitment to ourselves? Write it down.

Set yourself up for success
Out of sight, out of mind is a very real human condition that both serves – and harms us. Keep reminders throughout the house that can keep you on track. If losing weight is the goal, put pictures of a leaner, meaner you on the fridge or bathroom mirror. Put a motivating picture on the home page of your computer or cellphone. Put a photo of a role model somewhere it will be seen by you. If your going on a diet, get rid of the tempting snacks in the cupboard and find healthier alternatives as replacements. Think in advance where your weaknesses may lie, and remove them as obstacles. Prepare for your moments of weakness while your strong and fully committed.

Tell a friend
Embrace accountability by making a verbal commitment to a friend. This may seem awkward, but it’s a powerful technique to keep you on track. We all need friends, and why not leverage your relationships by sharing your goal to them.

Reward yourself
Keep a calendar and check off every day that you've accomplished your task. Allow yourself a moment to enjoy your daily success. A goal that is drudgery will not last. Reward yourself with a pat on the back acknowledging your progress.

Combining these techniques, you’ll greatly improve your chances of making your goal stick, and perhaps - change your life.

Can you do it? Will you try to make it?
To quote the great Yoda: “There is no try".