Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sticking With Your Dreams

Research shows that 80 percent of people who resolve in January to change their behavior have lost heart by Valentine’s Day. By Easter--well, forget it.

According to clinical psychologist Dr. Marion Jacobs, author of Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life...One Scene at a Time, part of the problem is that our brains don’t believe we’re serious about changing until they see some proof.

So whether you have a resolution you haven’t kept or a dream you haven’t stuck with, consider the following strategies to give your brain the evidence it needs:

Set small, achievable goals. Perhaps you’ve been wanting to go back to school and earn a degree but keep coming up with excuses. Set a goal of signing up for a single class or one-day workshop. If you enjoy it, chances are you’ll take another. If you don’t, at least you’ll have learned something about yourself. The same strategy applies to all sorts of endeavors. Want to write a memoir, but can't get started? Write a page a day and you'll have 365 by the end of the year.

Develop a specific action plan. Think about what steps are necessary to achieve your goal and write them down to imprint them on your brain. (This is an important part of the process.) Make each step realistic enough to be non-negotiable. Goals like losing weight require multiple steps; others require just one step performed over and over. If you want to be more courageous, for example, commit to doing one thing a day that scares you.

Anticipate challenges. If you’re trying to lose weight and have to attend a party where you know there will be lots of tempting treats, fill your stomach beforehand and limit yourself to one serving of dessert while you’re there. Whether you’re working toward a real estate license or learning to play the piano, don’t beat yourself up if you fail a test or miss a practice. From the get-go, tell yourself that if you fall off the wagon, you’ll get right back on. The most successful people in any discipline are not the ones who never fail, but the ones who persevere.

Reward yourself. Remember being a child and getting a gold star when you accomplished a task? Whatever your age, it feels good to have your accomplishments recognized. It’s one of the ways we get motivated to keep making effort. So get in the habit of giving yourself not just a pat on the back but some tangible reward every time you meet one of your goals.

And the next time someone tries to convince you that you can’t change, say with confidence: “Yes, I can!”

Note: I previously published the above on the National Association of Baby Boomer Women website.


  1. Hey, I should write a book about that... oh wait!

    Absolutely correct!
    Set small goals.
    And people don't stick with their resolutions because no, they're not serious. They did not make a REAL decision to to change!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. Hey, wait--you already DID write a book about this, didn't you? And... I already blogged about it.

    Seriously, I hope you're having a good day, Diane, and I hope people read your book if they're hungry for more after reading my post.


  3. In addition to writing down goals and how they'll be achieved, I also coach women to schedule time to check in on them once a quarter. It's amazing to see what you achieve! Given all the distractions with the economy, etc., I was feeling pretty much like I was going nowhere with my goals a few weeks ago. But then when I reviewed what I said I'd get done this first quarter and why, I was recharged because I had fulfilled everything I said I'd do!
    I treated myself to a massage and was ready to evalutate what I needed to get done second quarter. Small steps forward add up to big leaps!

  4. Great comment, Anne! Thanks! Hope others see it.

  5. Interesting you should talk about sticking with your dreams. I didn't and it is my one regret in life. Having said that, it is never too late to revive them.

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging at Writer's Digest 101 Best Website pick,

  6. I love this post! Okay, I love all of your posts but this one is so inspiring. I've really tried hard to stick with my 2009 goals and can feel myself slipping with all of the commotion going on in my life right now. I think I'll reevaluate and rewrite some of my goals. Thanks for the lift!

  7. Thanks, Beth. And, Carolyn, you're the perfect example of how it's not too late to revive a dream. :-)

  8. I am so excited to have found this blog. Positive, exciting an dpotentially the best blog that I can read to date. Thank you!

  9. Thanks, CoolChange58. You made my day!

  10. Those steps make a lot of sense, thanks for listing them.

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