To intentionally cultivate discipline in your life, you must have goals. Not just dreams, not just lofty ambitions, but specific, realistic, achievable goals. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you’ll lack direction and purpose.
Put Your Goals on Paper
I love how Dave Ramsey encourages people to put their financial goals “on paper, on purpose”. When you write down your goals, instead of just keeping them floating around in your brain, it puts more weight to them. Plus, if you write your goals down, you’re able to track your progress and be encouraged at the momentum you’re gaining in the right direction.
There are some very helpful goal-setting worksheets available from Project Management Skills and from Cigna Behavioral Health. However, please don’t be overwhelmed by these more in-depth worksheets. A simple sticky-note taped to your mirror or refrigerator will work just as well. The objective is not to have a fancy paper filled out, but to actually follow through with your goals.
Take Small Bites
Once you’ve written down the goal or two you are focusing on implementing in your life, develop an incremental plan of action for accomplishing that goal. Some goals lend themselves more to babysteps than others. For instance, if you want to lose five pounds in six weeks, you can create a six-week plan to achieve this goal that could look something like this:
Week 1: Track your calorie intake through SparkPeople. Exercise for 2 hours total.
Week 2: Find an accountability partner. Continue to track calorie intake, adjust if needed. Exercise for 2.5 hours total.
Week 3: Check-in with accountability partner. Continue to track calorie intake, adjust if needed. Exercise for 3 hours total. Drink more water.
Week 4: Check-in with accountability partner. Continue to track calorie intake, adjust if needed. Exercise for 3 hours total. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water daily. Cut out fast food, sugar, or soda pop.
Week 5: Maintain all habits from previous weeks, re-evaluate anything that isn’t working.
Week 6: Reward yourself for losing five pounds and developing some good habits that will hopefully stick around for a long time.
Now, I’m not saying that the above plan is guaranteed to make you lose five pounds in six weeks, but it gives you an idea of how to take a bigger goal and break it down into smaller pieces. Instead of being overwhelmed by looking at the big picture, think what small steps you can slowly take to get where you want to go. Map them out and then follow them!
Review & Tweak As Needed
Post your goal(s) in a conspicuous place and review them often. I’d suggest reviewing them at least daily, if not more often. Remind yourself of where you’re headed and how you’re planning to get there.
If you are struggling and feeling overwhelmed in the goal(s) you have set for yourself, step back and re-evaluate. Do you need to give yourself more time? Do you need tweak your goal(s) a little to be more realistic?
1) Write down your current habit/goal and put it in a conspicuous location.
2) If you’ve chosen a larger goal, break it down into bite-sized pieces and create a plan of action for the next few weeks or months.
3) Set up a weekly “appointment” with yourself to review and re-evaluate your goal(s) and how things are going.
How are you doing on your current habit? So far, I’ve stuck with my resolve to get up before 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday and before 7 a.m. Friday through Sunday. I’ve been amazed at how much more I’m getting done when I get up earlier!