Alli Rainey - Stepping Stones (Part: 2)

The One-Thing-at-a-Time Principle of Making Permanent Changes

We would be wise, then, to be wary of any methodology (whether it be a diet plan or a tidy-up-your-life plan) that promises immediate results and all-conclusive, happily-ever-after guarantees. Bringing Yoga to Life, by Donna Farhi

At this point, you’ve hopefully created a basic, working list of areas that you’d like to change – a list of potential goals and aims, if you will. Now you’ll have to make some decisions about those goals and aims. Start by honing in on one to five goals that you’re going to make your top priorities for now. This will likely require you to set aside some of your possible “areas that need changes” for now (definitely if you have more than five). You may have to start with just one area to change, particularly if you’re incredibly busy or if your goals are far too complex, interrelated, interdependent, time-consuming or life-changing (or all of the above) to work on simultaneously. Be realistic about what you might be able to accomplish while you decide what area(s) to tackle first.

From this point, start putting the items left in an order that makes sense for you to start working toward. Though it’s always tempting to put your No. 1 goal at the top of the list (and it may well end up there), it’s also worth considering which of the goals presents the easiest, most attainable goal on your list. Take that into account as well when ordering your priorities. Consider your schedule and your budget, as well as what you’re most likely to succeed in doing, given your past efforts (or lack thereof) at changing aspects of your life.

Once you have this list and feel comfortable and relatively confident about it (though always with a flexible mind, understanding that changes will inevitably happen), look at the top three items on it. Let’s say, for example, that one has to do with establishing healthier eating habits or losing weight, one with improving your fitness level or athletic skills and one with exploring a new career or taking your career in a different direction. All three of these changes obviously represent monumental and potentially overwhelming tasks – so again, you have to break each of these areas down into parts, giving yourself small, single-step goals in each area that will ultimately lead you to your bigger, overarching goal.

These items are the nuts-and-bolts of successfully changing lifestyle patterns that you’re unhappy with or feel like could use improvements. You want each of these steps – steps that will provide the foundation for changing your life – to be manageable and attainable within a relatively short period of time (within the next month or so), but to also be clear stepping stones along the path to your greater goal.

A quick example: Let’s say you want to lose 20 pounds. Expecting this to happen in a month is highly unrealistic for most people. But making goals to cut back on or eliminate sugary soft drinks from your diet, to eat three to five servings of vegetables per day and to exercise for 30 minutes three times a week are all realistic goals that you could feasibly integrate into your life during a month – and all three of these goals are steps on the path toward your bigger goal of losing 20 pounds.

More than anything, when establishing your smaller goals, you want to set yourself up for success, and to be able to celebrate every success, no matter how small. You also want to be as kind to yourself throughout this process as you would be to your best friend; if you slip up and drink a giant soda or miss a workout or forget your last serving of veggies, it’s okay – just regroup and move on instead of tossing the entire process out the door. Even if you only meet your mini-goals half of the time, you will make progress toward your overall goal. It just might take you longer to get there, and that’s okay – it’s actually better for some people to take the time needed to make lifestyle changes slowly. This allows new habits the time they need to gel until they become an inextricable part of being you, rather than changes you’re trying to force on your being before it’s completely ready. Be gentle and be firm with yourself, but don’t be forceful and overbearing – you still want to have fun with all of this.

As a final thought for this entry – and here’s the thing about these series of Life entries, too – this one-thing principle applies to these writings as well. What I mean by this is that you may not find the answer to all of your diet planning or exercise-routine or training requirements or career/life-changing tools here, but if you find at least one thing to take from each entry that has a positive impact on your person, that’s awesome! In other words, rarely in life does it have to be an all-or-nothing situation, just like in a diet plan, one “bad” meal doesn’t represent the end, and one skipped class or missed training session or failure to study enough or missed job opportunity needn’t result in colossal overall feelings of letdown or failure. The bigger picture becomes a bigger picture through small, daily steps, allowing you to create a beautiful mosaic of your individual and personal potential and dreams gradually being realized – and part of that is going to involve little bits of darkness along with all the light, colorful, sparkling pieces you put into place.

~ Alli Rainey, prAna Ambassador