9 Steps For Planning for Success

Follow These 9 Steps To Plan For Your Success

1. Hold yourself back. 

When you start with a new exercise program, or any new goal really, usually you're raring to go, full of excitement, and with enthusiasm that knows no boundaries. You have no sense of self-limitation and think you can do anything. It's not long, however, before you do learn that you have limitations, and your enthusiasm begins to wane. A great motivator is that when you have so much energy at the beginning of a program, and want to go all out
— hold back. Don't let yourself do everything you want to do. Only let yourself do 50-75 percent of what you want to do. And plan out a course of action where you slowly increase over time. For example:
  • If you want to go running, you might think you can run 3 miles (4.8 km) at first. But instead of letting yourself do that, start by only running a mile. When you're doing that mile, tell yourself that you can do more! But don't let yourself. After that workout, you'll be looking forward to the next workout, when you'll let yourself do 1.5 miles (2.4 km). Keep that energy reined in, harness it, so that you can ride it even further.

2. Go for mini-goals. 

Sometimes large or longer-term goals can be overwhelming. After a couple weeks, we may lose motivation, because we still have several months or a year or more left to accomplish the goal. It's hard to maintain motivation for a single goal for such a long time. Solution: break it down into smaller goals along the way.
  • For example, if you are having a hard time sticking to your goal of “exercising more,” split it up into concrete, achievable mini-goals to boost your momentum. “Go for a 15-minute walk three times a week” and “Run with a friend twice a week in the mornings” are more specific and more doable than a bigger, vaguer goal.

3. Just start. 

There are some days when you don't feel like heading out the door for a run, or figuring out your budget, or whatever it is you're supposed to do that day for your goal. Well, instead of thinking about how hard it is, and how long it will take, tell yourself that you just have to start. Don't wait until you “feel” like doing whatever it is you need to do.[3]
  • For example, just put on your running shoes and close the door behind you. After that, it all flows naturally. It's when you're sitting in your house, thinking about running and feeling tired, that it seems hard. Once you start, it is never as hard as you thought it would be. This tip works well every time.
  • You can also try an “if-then” approach to get yourself going. For example, you could say “If I feel the urge to sit down and watch TV, I'll go for a 10-minute run first.”

4. Stay accountable. 

If you've committed yourself publicly, through an online forum (try wikiHow's Chat Forum!), on a blog, in email, or in person, stay accountable to that group of people. Commit to report back to them daily, or something like that, and stick to it! That accountability will help you to want to do well, because you don't want to report that you've failed.
  • Consider even drastic measures of accountability. Give someone a sum of money and they can only give it back little by little every time you hit the gym, or for every pound lost, or every mile run. You can even draw up a contract!

5. Find like-minded friends. 

Staying motivated on your own is tough. But if you find someone with similar goals (running, dieting, finances, etc.), see if they'd like to partner with you. Or partner with your spouse, sibling or best friend on whatever goals they're trying to achieve. You don't have to be going after the same goals — as long as you are both pushing and encouraging each other to succeed. Other good options are groups in your area (be part of a running club, for example) or online forums where you can find people to talk to about your goals.
  • It's hard to accomplish something alone. Whether it's quitting smoking, running a marathon or writing a thesis, it is important to find your support network, either in the real world or online, or both.

6. Chart your progress. 

This can be as simple as marking an X on your calendar, or creating a simple spreadsheet, or logging your goal using online software. But it can be vastly rewarding to look back on your progress and to see how far you've come, and it can help you to keep going — you don't want to have too many days without an X! Now, you will have some bad marks on your chart. That's OK. Don't let a few bad marks stop you from continuing. Strive instead to get the good marks next time.
  • Studies show that if you document your progress, you'll begin to feel more competent. People who feel competent have better motivation.

7. Reward yourself often. 

For every little step along the way, celebrate your success, and give yourself a reward. It helps to write down appropriate rewards for each step, so that you can look forward to those rewards. By appropriate, this means 1) it's proportionate to the size of the goal (don't reward going on a 1-mile run with a luxury cruise in the Bahamas); and 2) it doesn't ruin your goal — if you are trying to lose weight, don't reward a day of healthy eating with a dessert binge. It's self-defeating.


8. Overcome procrastination. 

We all have days where it's easiest to say “I'll do it tomorrow!” You may see procrastination as laziness, and sometimes it is. However, a lot of times it's about having such an impossible standard for yourself that you know you can't attain it -- and therefore you don't want to try. Instead, try some of these procrastination-banishing tactics:
  • Look at the small stuff. If you're struggling to finish a big term paper, don't think about it as a “big term paper.” Break it into smaller chunks, like “research,” “writing the intro,” “drafting the body paragraphs,” etc. It's a lot less scary to tackle one of those than it is “big term paper.”
  • Remind yourself that you can only do your best. If your goal is “get all A's” you may end up so intimidated by your goal that you never start working. Instead, set your goal to be “Do my best on all my assignments.”
  • Forgive yourself. Studies suggest that people who beat themselves up over procrastination spend a lot of time feeling guilty, and not a lot of time actually working. Tell yourself, “I put this off yesterday and now I have more work to do, but I can get through this.” Then dive in.

9. Get a coach or take a class. 

These will motivate you to at least show up, and to take action. It can be applied to any goal. This might be one of the more expensive ways of motivating yourself, but it works. And if you do some research, you might find some cheap classes in your area, or you might know a friend who will provide coaching or counselling for free.