library is located well before midterms. There are two key components that often allow people to see their way to develop the habits necessary to reach lofty goals.
1. Self-improvement and reinvention are about small changes over time. Significant lifestyle changes often fail because they are too drastic over a short period and therefore overwhelming. Someone who has never exercised before cannot begin running 5 miles each day. Instead he needs to gradually build up strength and stamina by walking a mile, walking two miles, walking three miles, slowly jogging half a mile, jogging a mile, and so forth. He needs to remind himself of minor accomplishments while continuing advancing toward his goal. As a therapist I help clients set goals at the onset of treatment. I encourage the clients to recognize the small individual steps and accomplishments along the way, rather than singularly focusing on the distant goal. This is crucial when they are frustrated with slow/no progress or even regression. When they begin to feel like the goal is out of their reach I remind them of their achievements which can be very reinforcing and encouraging.
2. Many times the goal is perceived as a small speck in the distance and we give up when we encounter some
roadblocks or we slip up. We might say, “What’s the point, there is no way I’m going to get that promotion, reach that weight, run that 5K, get an A in this class.” Instead of being a little self-forgiving we beat ourselves up. I remind clients that “we are our harshest critic.” I follow it up by asking what they would do if their best friend was going through the same process and he/she messed up? Would you add to their anguish and pile on with the negativity or would you remind them that it is ok to slip up and they are doing a great job?” I have yet to have a client say they would put their friend down. I also remind clients that slip ups and mini failures are a part of the process. In any major change you are essentially trying to break timeworn habits and the “old you” will fight for existence. It is like someone trying to quit smoking. They will have those brief moments of vulnerability and sneak a cigarette. It does not mean the person needs to abandon their hope of being a nonsmoker? It means they are human and they need to work harder to find their willpower and resolve while learning from their slip up.
When you make a concerted effort to recognize and appreciate the small changes in perception, thinking, and behavior over time then you will likely to be on your way to seeing the ultimate change through to its end.
PS. I have to thank Mike Skahan and Lisa Barnet for encouraging me to stop making excuses and write more even though its hard to thank Skahan for anything.