True story. My absolute favorite song is Veruca Salt’s ditty from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Yes, I want the whole world—and I want it now. If I could wave a magic wand and heal the whole world, or at least the problems in my personal world, I’d do it in a heartbeat. But we all know that change doesn’t work that way in the real world.
Change takes time, especially if you want lasting personal change. Patience, and learning how to measure, recognize and celebrate small wins, is probably one of the most important personal development skills you’ll ever learn. These tips can help you cultivate the mindset that leads to real personal growth and change.
Accept That Real Change Takes Time
Hey, I get it. Once you decide on a personal goal, you expect it to happen—yesterday. And sometimes, it feels like it should happen that way. Have you ever put in a whirlwind of energy to clean your house for a party and thought to yourself, “Now that I’ve got it clean, it will be easy to keep it that way.” Bet you dollars to donuts that the clutter crept back in and, within a short time, you ended up with the very same mess you were living with before.
Here’s why. You can do a blitz to get to where you want to get—the crash diet, the spring cleaning, whatever—but you haven’t put in the time to develop the personal habits needed to maintain that personal change. Even worse, there’s a danger in looking for that silver bullet, meaning that you may never get started on making the small changes you need to make when you’re looking for the overnight cure. You don’t have to give up on your big dreams, though; you just need to get strategic about reaching them.
Set Small Goals That Take You Closer to Your Big Accomplishment
Big goals can be overwhelming. If you’ve decided to write a book, for example, staring at that blank sheet of paper is like staring into an abyss of white space. The trick to overcoming that feeling of paralysis is to break down that huge, overwhelming, I’ll-never-finish-this-thing goal into manageable chunks, and then follow through consistently. Write a page a day—just 250 words in an average Word doc—and at the end of 100 days, you’ll have 25,000 words. Depending on your opus, that could be half your book!
The same holds true for personal development goals. It’s one thing to commit to working out Every. Single. Day without fail. And, it’s easy to get discouraged when you skip a day because you didn’t feel well. Or you wanted to hang in bed an extra 10 minutes. Instead, set a small goal: working out five days in a row, for example. That’s so much easier to accomplish, and if you skip a day, you’re just resetting the calendar for another five days.
Celebrate Small Wins
When you set small goals, you have a lot more opportunities to high-five yourself for achieving them — and seriously, who doesn’t respond to rewards? One of the best ways to keep yourself on track towards your goals is to recognize and celebrate the little milestones along the way. The rewards don’t have to be much, and you’ll get bonus points if your rewards actually move you even closer to reaching your next goal. You managed to get in that daily workout for a full 30 days? Girrrrl! You totally deserve those new Fabletics leggings to look even better during next month’s workouts. Or hey, now that you’ve proven you can stick to it, go ahead and splurge on that kickboxing class you’ve been dreaming about.
Measure Your Progress
This may sound like a given, but nothing goes without saying. If you’re going to celebrate your small wins, you have to have a way to measure your progress, so you know when it’s time to reward yourself. Makes sense, right? One of the very best ways to track progress toward your personal goals is to journal about your journey. Passion Planner’s Roadmap makes it easy to visualize your big goals and break them down into smaller, more time-sensitive steps, but even that is only part of the trick. Every page in your Passion Planner journal has space to note which goals you’re working on and what steps you’re taking each day, week or month to reach them. Use your to-do list to hold yourself accountable and measure your progress on all your personal development goals.
Do Regular Check-ins
Whatever your personal goals are, make time to check in with yourself on a regular basis to see how far you’ve come or where you’ve fallen off track. These check-ins aren’t just to measure your progress. Their primary purpose is to evaluate your plan, reassess your goals and, if necessary, recalibrate. If you’re consistently having trouble meeting even your small goals, maybe they’re too ambitious. Maybe you need to scale back a little and take things a little more slowly. On the other hand, maybe you’ve been saving for a big purchase—your own home and a new car, for example—and your income got a bit of a bump (thanks, boss!) Does it make sense to increase your savings target, or should you use the money in another way?
Pro Tip: Washi tape is a great way to customize your Passion Planner and make changes to your road map. Check out this blog post on the best pens for writing on washi tape.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The real trick to making personal changes that stick is...wait for it...consistency. Whether your goal is to complete your degree, eat a healthier diet or live a more fulfilled, grateful life, the way to get there is to establish new habits, and the way to establish new habits is to just keep doing them, day after day. If your aim is to reach a big goal, every step on your roadmap is a step closer to that goal. When you finish one step, move on to the next. Just remember to mark your small wins and celebrate each one — it will keep them fresh and interesting.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer living and working on Massachusetts. She writes frequently about health, wellness and lifestyle topics.