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Four mighty little tricks to making it


Tracy Cooper-Posey

No, you do not have to have the sticking power of super-glue and the inertia of concrete to stay committed to your goals.

You can reach your goals with nothing more than overwhelming desire to have those goals, and a modicum of stubbornness.

Planning to loose weight? Want to write something every day? Do you want to get fit and healthy this year?

Here's how commitment really works:

Ease into it

Like most of these ideas, this one is simple, obvious, and most likely you've heard it before. But it works.

If you want to loose weight and get fit, hurling yourself into an advanced aerobic class six days a week, for an hour a day, is only going to drain you of every last gram of energy, make your entire body hurt (including your toenails), and ensure you hate the health club even more than you did last year.

Ditto deciding you're going to be the next Nora Roberts.

Pulling yourself out of bed at four in the morning to write, then dragging yourself though the day feeling so tired your ears ache is a great way of making sure you never write another word again.

Of course you're not going to be that silly about it. But seriously consider the goals you have set for yourself. Are you asking too much of yourself up front?

Break down the stages of your involvement in the new goal so that you are easing into it one small, manageable step at a time. Set your clock fifteen minutes early for the first three weeks, then 30 minutes for the next three, and so on.

Exercise only twice a week for 15 minutes at a time for a couple of weeks, then increase it to 30 minutes, three times a week, and a bit more for the next few weeks. Progress comes more slowly, but you have a greater chance of sticking with it.

The key word is "realistic". Your ultimate goal can be as ambitious as you want it to be, so long as the steps along the way are realistic and manageable.

A good rule of thumb is to only increase the next step by 10% more than the last one.

Commit to your goal with every decision

Commitment is not a matter of saying before you begin: "I'm going to do it!" It doesn't work that way. You don't need a reinforced steel commitment up front that will get you through to the end.

You start with desire (we all start with that!) Each day you will have tasks you need to do that build up to your goal.

Maybe today you have to write for thirty minutes, or exercise for 45, or today you're concentrating on eating low fat foods only.

You have a choice to do or not do the task. If you're wavering and thinking about how chilly it is this morning, think of the prize at the end. This is when you draw on the ambition, desire and daydreams you've had about achieving your goal. Then decide to do the task just this once. That's the only commitment you need -- enough to do it this once. And your task shouldn't be overwhelming if you're easing yourself into it.

Don't think about the hard, hard work between you and your goal. That'll depress you. Just deal with this decision, gut it out, and face the next one when it comes along.

Feedback helps

Keep records. Even if you're not the slightest bit anal retentive, keeping statistics is worth while.

If you're trying to loose weight, keep a record of your daily or weekly weight loss, the calories you've consumed, or a dated diary of whether you stuck to healthy choices throughout the day.

If you want to write more often, record if you wrote that day. Also keep track of the words you wrote and the pages you wrote.

Record if you've been to the gym, how you felt about your session (was it harder today, or did you notice it was much easier than usual? Did you work hard? Has your endurance improved? Did you lift the same weights today, but find it easier?)

Building (or diminishing) numbers will tell you immediately that you're improving, getting better at it, or loosing weight a lot sooner than your own perceptions will tell you. Records tell you you're making progress. Without them, especially in the early stages of your program, you may not be able to see or sense your improvement.

Progress will boost your commitment, making the next step easier to do, and the whole process feeds back into itself.

Faltering is the best thing that can happen to you.

You're going to drop the ball. Admit it, accept it, and work with it. Just as you need to ease into the new regime, you also need to let yourself succeed with less than a perfect score. You're allowed to have off-days. You're allowed to choose to stay in bed when it's 30 below outside.

Two important points: Don't hate yourself if you do falter. And don't allow yourself to falter twice in a row.

Use all the tricks mentioned so far to out-stubborn yourself.

When you're facing the task you ducked yesterday, use the one step at a time commitment idea to get yourself through the task just this once.

I guarantee that if you get it done, you'll feel so pleased with yourself you'll glow. It's a major victory that will add to your desire to reach that all important end goal--because now you know you can get back on target when you fall off every now and again.

Now the whole project will seem do-able. And if you continue to use these four techniques, you will reach your goals!

Copyright Tracy Cooper-Posey 2000


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