We can successfully learn or change any behavior, guaranteed!  The place we most often fail is the size of the step we attempt.  If we can just determine the size of challenge we can guarantee ourselves that we can accomplish, we'll make it every time.

Have you ever decided to begin a healthier lifestyle only to find that something comes up a week later and derails all of the work you've done?  Why doesn't the same type of event throw off someone who has been succeeding for years doing exactly the same program?  Aren't they proof that it can be done, just not by you?

NO!  It's because they have a long established pattern of success in the area you're working on and you don't.  They took a number of little steps they've built up over years and you're trying to build the same habits within one week!

We almost always bite off more than we can chew.  For example, if you've spent the last 5-20 years living an unhealthy lifestyle, you probably need to ease into healthy living.  Rather than maintaining strict adherence to a diet and exercise program 6 days a week with one free day, why not start off with 1 day a week where you watch your diet and don't worry about it for 6 days?

Let's say you've gained an average of 5 pounds a year for the last 10 years.  If you don't gain weight this year, isn't that a success?  If you lose 5 pounds the following year, isn't that a success?  Wouldn't you rather stop the yo-yo dieting where you end up gaining more than you lose and slowly get back to the weight you should be?

So what if it takes you 2, or 3, or 5 years?  Do you insist on instant success, instant perfection?  Isn't that what's at the root of the failure?  Why not start by getting real?  Be realistic about what you can really accomplish.  

Start with what you know you can be successful at and maintain for the next year.  As you experience success and it becomes an unconscious habit, add on a little more.

Here are some examples in other areas:

  • If you're having trouble setting money aside for RRSP's etc, begin with a dollar a day into a jar on the nightstand.  Bump it up to $2 a day once you've managed with a dollar.

  • If you're trying to quit smoking, begin by waiting half an hour longer before you have your first cigarette.  Add on not smoking until noon.  Move up to a whole day where you only have one smoke whenever you want, then to a week.

  • If you need to put more effort into the relationship with your spouse, start with a date the first Friday night of every month.  Add on to make it a regular weekly date.  Have a florist shop that delivers once a month and debits your credit card.  Supply them with 12 cards and have the flowers sent on any special occasion for the month and "just because" on the other months.

  • If your house is a mess, pick one spot that you begin with and don't worry about the rest.  As you're successful with that area, add one another, then another...until finally your storage space and garage are even organized.

  • If you need to upgrade your personal appearance, begin by going through your wardrobe and throwing out one item a week (or donate it).  As you find you don't have clothes to wear, go shopping with someone who has a good eye for fashion.  Move on to hair, makeup, glasses etc.

  • If you find you have no time and need to clear your schedule, commit to one hour a week that is yours alone.  Go somewhere where no one can find you and turn off your cell phone.  When you're ready to take the next step, take an evening or an afternoon that is yours alone.  Eventually, you'll be able to take a week away...it's called a Holiday!

  • If you need to develop more balance in your spiritual life, begin by putting time aside for 30 minutes in the week to meditate, pray, read spiritual texts or fellowship with those who share your faith.  You may want to look into donating to a non-profit organization or volunteering your time to help.

These are only suggestions.  It's up to you to create the plan because only YOU know what you can guarantee yourself success in doing.  The key is to pick a step that you know with absolute certainty you can do for 6 month to a year, and make it the #1 priority in your schedule.  

Don't pick one item from each area, just pick one item.  All we can be successful with is one new habit at a time.

Decide on the area you want to work on and then determine the size of step you can guarantee success in.  Don't let your ego destroy your chances of success, start small and work your way up with success at every step.

Graham White