1. Getting Started and Ready for Change

Your ability to make a change in your life or achieve a goal depends largely on your attitude, commitment, and motivation to do something about your problem. The decision to maintain or overcome the problem is yours. Taking full responsibility to do something about your problem is the most empowering step you can take.

You have the power to make a change, recover, and grow. Taking responsibility does not mean blaming yourself for the problem, and it does not mean that you have go through it alone!

Ask yourself these questions:

“Am I ready to make a change in my lifestyle?”

“Am I willing to learn and incorporate new habits into my daily routine?”

“Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.” –

Merilyn Ferguson

Some Thought Barriers to Maintaining Motivation

If you have difficulty maintaining your motivation to make changes in your life then ask yourself,

“What are the payoffs if I continue in the same way and in not making this change?”

If your answer is:

  • “I don’t deserve this change!” – If you have been saying this to yourself, then you have the tendency to hold yourself back and the key will be to work on your self-esteem.
  • “It will be too much work!” – This assumption will overwhelm you and make you even more stressed. Instead, replace this negative belief with a more positive one and start by breaking your problem down into smaller steps and work at achieving them at your own pace!
  • “I don’t have time!” – It will be important to give your goal sufficient priority over all other activities going on in your life.
  1. Setting Goals
  • Set clear and concrete goals. Your goals should be realistic and attainable. In setting your goals, try to answer the following questions:

“What are the most positive changes I would like to see in my life?”

“How would these changes affect my thinking, my feelings, my relationship with others, at work, and with myself?

“What new opportunities could I gain from making these changes?”

  • Make a list of your desired goals and then prioritize them from what is most valuable to you and in improving your life.
  • Break down each goal into smaller manageable steps, and plan out what needs to happen in order for you to achieve the next task. This makes attaining your ultimate goal less intimidating. Sometimes it is easier to work backwards from their end goal.

For example, if your goal is to run a 10km marathon, you could divide up this goal into manageable steps to be achieved over a long period of time:

  • Walk for 30 minutes,
  • Run for 20 minutes,
  • Run for 45 minutes,
  • Run 5km in one hour,
  • Run a total distance of 15km in one week,
  • Run a total distance of 25km in one week, etc.
  • Set a realistic time frame for achieving your goals. Don’t be over ambitious. Give yourself enough time to achieve each of the smaller goals at a comfortable pace.
  • Recruit support from spouse, family, or few close friends to help you through the process. By sharing your plans with these trusted individuals, you are more likely to stay committed in achieving your goals or to get back on track after a setback.
  1. Visualizing Your Goals

Once you have defined what you would like to change in your life, it is helpful to practice visualizing it. Research has shown that competitive athletes who mentally rehearse their routines have more positive performances and lower anxiety. In fact, mental practices activate the same brain patterns as actually carrying out the physical practice, and that doing both is even more effective at ensuring positive performance. This is the strength of the mind-body connection!

Try this: Begin by thinking about what you would like to achieve and imagine the scene as if it were happening. Focus on this mental “image” by engaging the five senses and with as much detail as much as possible.

  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • Which emotions do you feel?
  • What physical sensations are you experiencing?

Imagine how the changes can affect your future, functioning, and relationships. It is helpful to do these visualization following deep relaxation or while in a calm state. Practicing this exercise for 5-minutes everyday will increase your confidence about succeeding. Good luck!!

  1. Putting Your Goals into Action

When you finally decide to do something about your fears or tackling a problem, the initial motivation and enthusiasm may be enough to get you started. But the real test is in following through with a personal commitment and to persist even on days when you don’t feel like it. Do you feel motivated to change? Are you willing to learn new skills and make them into your daily routine and lifestyle?

As you write down your goals, list two reasons why they are valuable and important to you. Keep this list so that you can read them on days where you are in doubt or feel particularly unmotivated.

  1. Dealing with Set-Backs

Set-backs are an inevitable part of achieving any goal. However, the way in which you deal with these set-backs can either motivate you or deter you from striding forward. Instead of brooding over the situation, try and figure out a way to solve the problem. Ask yourself:

“What interfered with my progress?”

“Are these factors within my control to change?”

“Am I trying to achieve a realistic goal and were the smaller steps attainable?”

“Did I set a reasonable time frame to achieve each task?”

“What have I learned from this setback?”

Reach out to your social support system who can provide you with a “reality check” to determine if your goals are realistically attainable and provide you with encouragement to get back on track. It is very important to not allow setbacks to discourage you from obtaining your goals. Setbacks should not be viewed as personal failures rather they are opportunities for you to learn from what happened and persist.



  1. Tips for Effective Goal Setting

Set realistic goals and have realistic expectations.

Do not compare yourself to how you used to perform or to others. Be sure to work towards your goals at your own pace.

It is best to evaluate your progress after reasonable amount of time has passed instead of on a daily basis.

Let go of ‘stubborn’ attitude where the expectation is for change to occur quickly or doing each task to perfection.

Enjoy the process of doing tasks and going through change instead of just looking to finish or accomplish the task. As the popular saying goes, “The journey is more important than the destination.”

Monitor your thoughts and consider factors that may be interfering with your progress.

Do not let setbacks discourage you. Setbacks are an integral part of life and you can use them as a learning experience.

Do not magnify small errors or flaws. Remember that there is no real learning without making mistakes.

Do not minimize or disqualify positive changes you are making. Pay attention to the word “but” – for example, “Yes I completed my report, but it is not my best work.”

Reward yourself for making gradual changes and for achieving each of the smaller steps towards your ultimate goal. Every small step counts!!

Demonstrate patience and be kind and fair to yourself!

Dr. Niusha Ghazban PhD