Many changes take a lot of time. Perhaps you’re trying to lose 50lbs, or get out of debt. You might be working on a major project — like writing a book, or renovating a house.

Whatever your goal, you know it’s going to make a big difference to your life. You have plenty of reasons to achieve it … but that’s not always enough.

On a day to day level, it can be really tough to consistently take actions that lead towards your goal. For instance, if you’re aiming to lose 50lbs, your goal might seem so far off that it’s hardly worth skipping dessert today. If you need to pay off $30,000 of debt, then that $5 coffee seems totally inconsequential.

Every big goal, though, is achieved by a whole series of tiny steps. Sure, one dessert doesn’t mean much in the context of your whole diet … but if you end up eating dessert every day, you’re pretty soon going to give up on the diet entirely. Similarly, $5 won’t do much to get you out of debt … but a whole bunch of tiny savings will soon add up.

If you’re struggling to see the long-term picture, try one or more of these five tips:

#1: Write Down Your “Why”

You have a reason to change — probably several reasons. Grab a piece of paper, or open up a document on your computer, and write down exactly why this change is important to you. What benefits are there? What consequences will there be if you don’t change?

You could list your reasons as bullet-points, if you want, or you could write a few paragraphs describing how your life will be once you’ve achieved your goal. It’s a good idea to write this in the present tense, to help make it more immediate and real.

For instance:

Losing 50lbs means:

  • Being healthier & fitter
  • A new wardrobe!
  • Feeling attractive and confident

Or:

I’m out of debt, and I feel so much happier. I’m sleeping well at night, and little ups and downs don’t stress me out. So many more options are open to me now.

#2: Make it as Easy as Possible

All change requires work … but the easier you can make things, the higher your chances of staying on the right path.

As much as possible, set things up so that making the right choice is the default option. For instance, if you’re trying to save up an emergency fund, set up an automatic transfer out of your checking account every month — that way, you have to take action to not transfer the money.

It’s worth investing some time and energy at the start of a big change (when your motivation is naturally high) to get good systems in place. If you’re dieting, you could stock the cupboards with healthy food, and work out a few easy and healthy meals that you can cook on a regular basis.

#3: Aim for the Next Milestone

Sometimes, the finish line is so far away that you can’t really see it. Perhaps you’re working on a huge project like a book, and you don’t really have much grasp of when you can expect to finish. Maybe you’ve got a long way to go in order to get out of debt or reach a healthy weight, and it’s discouraging to think of how many months or years it’ll take.

Instead of worrying about the finish line, focus on the next milestone. For instance, if you’re writing a book, your first milestone could be to write the first 10,000 words; the next milestone might be to reach 25,000 words. If you’re getting out of debt, many experts will recommend the “debt snowball” method, where you pay off the smallest debt first, then gradually work your way up.

#4: Build up a String of Successes

Once you’ve started to succeed, do everything you can to motivate yourself to stay on track. One great trick is to put a check mark on your calendar for every day (or every week, depending on your goal) that you take action.

Let’s say your ultimate goal is to write a book, and you’ve decided that a good way to do that is by writing 300 words every day. That’s not very much (it’s about a third of this blog post) but those 300 words each day will add up to a 60,000 word book within seven months. To reduce the temptation to skip a day when you’re feeling unmotivated, check off each day that you hit your 300 word target: once you’ve got a string of check marks, you won’t want to break it.

#5: Celebrate What You Achieve

Once you’ve reached a major milestone, celebrate! Go out for dinner, open that good bottle of wine you’ve been saving, treat yourself to a new book or DVD, book a vacation … whatever works for you (and your budget).

Let other people know, too. Post an announcement on Facebook, or write a blog post about the success you’ve achieved. You’ll almost certainly get lots of “Congratulations!” messages — plus you might just inspire someone else to start working towards a goal of their own.

Do you have a great tip for staying motivated over the long-term? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…

Photo by fluffisch

Ali Luke

Ali writes about personal growth and development on her blog, Aliventures. As well as blogging, she writes fiction, and is studying for an MA in Creative Writing.

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