mountain-top-983890_1280It’s the New Year, so many of us take this time to plan for new year’s resolutions and changes that we would like to make in our lives.  January is often the most common time when we feel compelled to start anew, but really, we can do this at any moment.  Every day is a new day, every moment is a new moment.  If you can drop the past, you can start anew.

In light of this time of year and the fact that many of us are more inspired to make positive changes in our lives, I wanted to share some of my favourite tools for creating an effective game plan for personal change.

You can apply these simple tools at ANY time of year, and you can even use them on a regular basis–in fact, the more often you use these tools, the greater your potential for personal change!

If you can drop the past, you can start anew!


Step 1:  Taking stock of the situation

What are the areas of your life that need improving?  Maybe you have some ideas and maybe there are some areas of your life that you haven’t considered.  My favourite tool for helping me take inventory of where I am, where I need improving and where I would like to be is called, STOP/START/CONTINUE.

It’s very easy to do.  You take a piece of paper and make 3 columns along the full length of the page.  In the first, write STOP, the 2nd write: START, and the 3rd write: CONTINUE.

Under STOP; write all of the things you do in your life which you are not proud of and that you wish you would stop.  This column is all about creating self-awareness, since awareness is the first step to changing any behaviour!!!

Under START; write all of the things that you don’t currently do at all, but would like to.  This column is all about identifying those new territories that we aspire to but have yet ventured into.

Under CONTINUE; write all of the things that you currently do in your life which are beneficial to you and which you would like to continue.  This column is about identifying all the great things you already do, so that you can focus on maintaining them.  Also, it’s a great opportunity to pat yourself on the back for a job well-done!

These 3 columns give you an overview of where you’ve been, where you would like to go, and what you’re doing right now.  It gives a focus to the areas that need improvement, about the changes you would like to see and the resources you currently have.

So after this exercise, hopefully you have a better idea of the areas of your life in which you would like to make changes.  The next step is about getting very specific and clear about what you want to achieve.


Step 2:  A clear vision

If you don’t have a clear idea of where you want to go, how can you get there?  Experts in goal-setting use the following acronym:

SMART:  S-specific, M-Measurable A-achievable R-realistic  T-time-bound

You can have one goal or several, but don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much at once.

Specific:  Make sure the goal you have is precise.  e.g.  “I want to feel better” is very vague vs.  “I want to have more energy when I wake up in the morning and in the evenings after I come home from work.”

Measurable:  You need to quantify the goal in some way so that you can find out if you have reached your goal or not.   If you want more energy, how would you rate your current energy out of 10, and where would you like it to be?  Some other examples:  How many inches do you want to lose off your waistline?  How many kilometres or steps do you want to walk each day?  Which foods would you like to see yourself eating more of?

Achievable:  If your goal is to be as an olympic athlete, this might be an unrealistic goal.  Set your sights on a goal which is challenging enough to be a bit scary, but which you can also envision realistically happening within a certain timeframe.  If you’re not sure what that is, look at other people you may know who have accomplished something similar and see what they did and how they did it.

Realistic:  Is your achievable goal realistic given the time-frame and lifestyle you currently have?  Make sure you look at your plan in the context of the current resources you have and determine if it’s reasonable.

Time-bound:  When we say, “I’m going to get to it, soon…” We’re not creating any urgency, in fact, by being vague, we are allowing ourselves to postpone an action.   Setting the goal in the context of a certain timeline will keep you motivated to work towards your goal.  If after sometime, you realize that your time-line was unrealistic you can always change it, but make sure you change the plan officially and concretely so that you still have a timeline to adhere to.

Step 3:  Create a Plan

Now that you have a SMART goal, it’s time to make a plan.

labyrinth-1015637_1280How will you achieve your goal?

What are the steps that need to be taken to reach the goal?  Are there any supplies, information or equipment needed?   Make arrangements to gather whatever you need to execute your plan.

e.g. If your goal is to exercise for 20 minutes 3x/week:  Do you have the proper exercise wear and shoes?  What exercises will you do?  If you run, what route will you take?  What will your exercise routine look like?  What time of day and which day(s) will you schedule your exercise time?

Using your timeline, plan the steps or actions that you need to take to reach your final goal.

day-planner-828611_1280When will you implement the actions needed?

Block off scheduled times each week that you will dedicate to working towards your goal.

Step 4:  Take ACTION!

You have a clear goal, you have the means to achieve it and now all you have to do it GO FOR IT!   Stepping outside your comfort zone is always a little scary and that’s ok.  If we don’t step outside that comfort zone, we don’t change and we don’t grow–so better to conquer those butterflies and experience the energy, excitement and power of making things happen in your life!

One last note:

Be kind to yourself.  If you encounter a setback, don’t let it discourage you…  Setbacks happen to everybody.  The important thing is to get back on track and keep going!

Believe in yourself!  You are capable of great things!!!


Your turn!

Are these tools helpful?

What other tools do you use?





Self-improvement: Goal-Setting for Personal Change
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