Let me ask you a quick question: The last time you started a diet (or decided to eat healthier, start exercising or make some other positive change in your life) on what day of the week did you begin? If I was a betting girl, I’d put my money on one of two days—either (any given) Monday or January 1. Am I right? There’s something about the start of a new week—or a new year—that signals to our brain that “it’s time to make a change.” But there’s a big downside to this approach. You give yourself a very narrow window of opportunity to make your life better. In fact, if you only set goals or resolutions in January (and that’s if you give yourself the whole month), you rule out 91.5 % of the days in the year! If you set some goals or resolutions in January, and they faded into the background before you crossed the finish line, or if you didn’t set any goals for one reason or another, I have some good news: You don’t have to wait until January (or even next Monday) to start changing your life for the better. You can start now. Here’s how.

Pick one focal point goal.

girl running

Once you open yourself up to the possibility of making positive changes, you may find yourself flooded with ideas. I remember reading Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principles” several years ago. In this book Jack presents 64 “success principles,” which essentially are mindsets and habits that successful people habitually think and do. Somewhere in the book, Jack advised that you pick just one to focus at a time. For me, this was a lot like going to a penny candy store and being told I could only have one tiny piece of candy. How do you choose just one? Well, it isn’t easy, but I can tell you this: The fewer things you focus on at any given time, the more you will get done!

Take action! Give yourself permission to dream about a better life and become clear about the changes you’d like to make. Then, step back and pick just one focal point goal. This doesn’t mean you won’t make progress on the other goals, it simply means that you have chosen one goal as being most important. For example, my focal point goal in 2013 is to run 500 miles.

It’s okay if you don’t know how you’ll do it.

Have you ever wanted to go after a big dream, but then you found yourself stalled before you even began? Often you can stall because you aren’t sure how to do it. Not knowing how to achieve a goal doesn’t mean that you’re going after the wrong goal. In fact, not knowing how is a good sign you’re doing something different. And that’s a key ingredient in making positive change. Remember, if you want something different, you must do something different. So if you aren’t sure how to make your goal happen, it makes complete sense: You’re simply trying something different! Look at uncertainty not as a signal that you’re on the wrong path, but instead as an indication that you’re on the right path. Then find someone who has done what you’ve done before, and seek out their help.

Take action! Once you choose your goal, look at not knowing how you’ll do it as a sign you’re on the right track. You’re heading in a different, more positive direction! Then, reach out for the help you need via books, classes or a coach to help you figure how to make it happen.

Allocate time to make progress.

Big changes happen during small slices of time. For example, in my online classes, I recommend students allocate 15 minutes a day to declutter and work on their organizing projects. The rationale is that it’s easier to find 15 minutes of time on any given day, than it is to find any larger block of time. It’s also easier to muster up the motivation to declutter for 15 minutes than it is to motivate yourself to declutter for a few hours or an entire weekend. What’s more important, though, is that by consistently taking action for a small slice of time, you gain confidence in yourself. You quickly begin to see results and this sends a powerful message to your brain. You begin to believe that you can do it!

Take action! Carve out small slices of time to make progress on your focal point goal each day. And give yourself permission to keep it flexible. For example, I run three times a week to hit my weekly mileage target for my 500-mile goal, but the specific days each week vary based on my schedule and how my body is feeling.

Reframe your goal to stay motivated.

If you’ve ever set a goal and lost your motivation before crossing the finish line, here’s something important to know: You’re totally normal! Anytime we do something different, it takes time to create the habit of doing it. Consider reframing your goal so that it is more compelling to take action on. For example, in the recent years prior to 2013, I had a goal to exercise three to four times a week. This year, my goal is based on mileage—running 500 miles. This goal has a definite end point, a time when I will be able to say—yes, I did it! And it’s really easy to track and monitor my progress. I know that I need to run three times a week for an average of 3.3 miles to keep on pace with my goal. This has been incredibly motivating to me. I run even when I don’t feel like it, because I know that if I don’t, this goal will begin to slip out of grasp. And after each run, especially those that I didn’t feel like going on in the first place, I consciously notice how good I feel. This good feeling becomes rather addictive. But that’s not all, as I hit milestones like 100 miles or 200 miles, I become even more energized about reaching the year-long goal of 500 miles. The closer I get to the finish line, the stronger my commitment.If you begin to lose motivation to achieve your goal, look for ways to reframe it so that it is more compelling. Find ways to make your goal measurable and then track your progress. When you do, your momentum will begin to grow.

Take action! Find ways to make your goal even more compelling, so you’re more motivated to make it happen. The better life you long for is out there waiting for you.

Put these ideas in action today, and then keep moving in the direction of your dream life one day—and one step—at a time.

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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