9 Steps to Changing Your Life
by Dr. Melanie Ross Mills / Contributor
I led a group a few years ago on the topic of contentment. One woman asked a question that’s never left me. An emotionally charged “Beth” said, “I want to lose weight, but you’re telling me that I should be content?” I kindly replied, “It’s a true gift to be content, but this is very different from being complacent.” Beth sat in silence as she pondered my reply. Her tone of voice softened and she replied as if an “ah-ha” moment had occurred, “My complacency is what’s gotten me here.”
As a group, we continued to discuss the process of making positive changes in our lives, the importance of identifying potential roadblocks, and the value in taking action steps to reach our goals. I concluded by stating, “A discontent person can either be driven or stuck. Their discontent will drive them to pursue goals or they’ll be paralyzed by their focus on the negativity of their discontent. A content person (not a complacent person) is at peace, experiencing gratefulness, celebrating progress, and feeling secure to pursue goals and aspirations. Therein lies the gift of contentment.”
Each of us has personal motivations for wanting to accomplish short-term or lasting change, fulfill personal goals and experience progress in our lives. In order for this to occur we must implement a game plan. Our personal game plan provides us vision for what’s to come and the steps to get there. Whether it’s changing a habit, starting a non-profit, losing weight, getting a degree, or being more friendly to strangers, reaching your goal is possible with a plan.
9 Steps to Your Personal Game Plan
Step 1: Write a personal goal statement
Purchase a journal to record your brainstorming. Write down your honest thoughts and feelings about what you’d like to see happen. Don’t hold back.
Personal Goal Statement:
Knowing your “why” will help you form your personal goal statement. It will reveal to you your motivation behind your mission.
Ask yourself: Why do I desire this goal? Why does my plan matter to me? Why am I willing to make difficult choices in order to obtain my goal?
Your “why” will be your motivating factor, your anchor. Your “why” must be enough motivation for you to be faithful in completing the tasks at hand.
Write out your personal goal statement: For example, I’ll lose 25 pounds/quit smoking/drink less alcohol because I want to stay healthy for my children. I want to model for them self-discipline and self-control. Or I’ll cultivate a healthier marriage or parent with a grateful heart instead of from a place of worry. I’ll make small changes each and every day that I need to make.
Step 2: Identify your road blocks
Take time to journal about things in the past that have held you back from taking risks, pursuing dreams and/or goals or that have caused you to pause or feel paralyzed. Self-examine hurts, fears, habits, unhealthy patterns, lies you believe about yourself, lack of support, relationship challenges, and any other areas that could potentially stifle you from moving forward with your plan.
Step 3: Take a realistic perspective
Revisit your personal goal statement and potential roadblocks. Take an objective viewpoint. Take out the emotional attachment and excitement involved.
Ask yourself: Do I have a long-term goal or a short-term goal? How realistic are my expectations for myself? Can I overcome the possible roadblocks I identified? If not, what do I need to do in order to get there? Will this require my forgiving myself for shortcomings, letting go of guilt, bitterness, anger, resentment? Are there loose ends I need to take care of before I can move forward? How will I measure my accomplishments? Daily? Weekly? Yearly?
Step 4: Walk through the process
Prepare from beginning to end. Take time to meditate, envision, visualize. Listen to music, read books that are in keeping with your goal, talk to those who have gone before you in this area. Take it all in and let it sit for a minute. Some people create vision boards while others keep a visual in their minds. See yourself on the other side. Journal your vision for the future.
Ask yourself: What does my future look like once I have completed my goal? Who is with me? What am I doing on a daily basis? What impact has this change had on myself and others? Who’s celebrating with me? Who might be a hindrance, distracting, or unsupportive?
Step 5: Tighten your plan
Now it’s time to define your time frame. Revisit your personal goal statement. Look at your lifestyle, demands, responsibilities. Record your date that you will reach your goal and create “mile-markers” along the way.
Step 6: Phone a friend
Most goals aren’t accomplished independently. You’ll need others to help keep you accountable. You’ll also need encouragement when you’re struggling or wanting to give up. Find a trusted and safe friend who can help you stay on track. Schedule a coffee or lunch (bring your journal with your notes). Let your friend know what you’re setting out to accomplish. Be as honest and open as you can regarding your reflection time, your heart’s desires, your mission, your “why.” Ask them if they’d be willing to meet with you on a regular basis until you reach your goal.
Step 7: Implement and apply
It’s time to start making progress! Small steps add up to big changes. Being faithful with the little things adds up to greater accomplishments. “One step at a time” is your new motto. Begin each day with a mindset of newness and awe. Each day is a new beginning and full of opportunities to take steps toward your goal. Before you start your day, make a conscious decision to make choices that line up with your personal goal statement. You’ll have some setbacks because you’re only human, but don’t camp out in them. Call your friend (from step 6) and let him or her know your setback. Ask for help getting back on course. Discuss strategies you can implement to help you avoid similar setbacks.
Step 8: Rejoice
Celebrate every day! You might want to wait until your goal is reached to celebrate, but don’t wait! You’re created to rejoice always. Therefore, rejoice! Make an exerted effort every day to embrace your victories. Be joyful in the baby steps, the self-control, the choices you’re making that are in keeping with your personal goal statement. Celebrate!
Step 9: Live life
As you’re going through the “daily grind” of what’s required to reach your goal, be fully present. See the beauty in the process. You’re the one who knows the effort and energy you’re pouring into this process. You’re the one who sees the sacrifices you’re having to make. Take it all in and let the process of implementing your personal game plan transform you into more of the person you’re created to be.
A personal plan is a valuable asset and motivator for reaching our goals. Having steps and a system in place will give us the foundation needed to not only accomplish the small tasks but to also create the life we’re intended to live… the abundant life.