When you have a big goal in front of you—say, losing 20 pounds or bringing your blood glucose down to normal levels—it’s easy to feel defeated right from the start. With such a big target to aim for, it will be a long time before you’ve made any progress. After a while, that lack of rewarding feedback might make you feel like giving up altogether.
A better strategy is to break down your goal into smaller, more achievable tasks so you’re not trying to tackle too much at once. For example, if you’re trying to count your carbohydrate servings and cut saturated fat from your eating plan, try working on just the carbohydrate component until you feel you’ve mastered it, then move on to watching the saturated fat.
When you set your goals, choose actions you can have control over, and give yourself a time frame so you’ll be able to measure how close you come to reaching them. Some good examples:
Finding time to take a 10-minute walk each day for a week.
Eating breakfast at least five mornings in the week.
Not snacking after dinner for at least 12 days over the next two weeks.
Goals like these are challenging enough to keep you motivated, but not so challenging that they’re out of reasonable reach. You can meet them—and you will!
If you think this approach sounds halfhearted, think again. Small changes are often the most powerful of all, because they’re the ones we’re most likely to stick with. And small changes can produce big results: just adding a little more activity to your day, for example, might be all you need to bring down your blood glucose to a manageable level. Consider that just losing 10 percent of your body weight—that’s 15 pounds if you weigh 150 now—can lower your risk for heart problems as well as improve your diabetes.
Once you reach a goal, be sure to mark your achievement first, with a reward. Taking the time to acknowledge your success makes your achievement all the more real, and motivating. If weight loss is your goal, try rewarding yourself with something unrelated to food: say, a trip to the movies, some clothing you’ve been coveting or a massage.
Once you’ve celebrated your success, it’s a good idea to set a new goal for yourself. Set the bar a little higher so that you’ll keep yourself challenged—and don’t forget to give yourself a reward once you’ve reached it.