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Avoid Missteps

One of the main reasons people fail to reach goals is that they rip out an old problem without a plan to replace it with a new behavior. If you want to change your ways, ask yourself, “What will I do instead?”

Heidi Grant Halvorson, PhD, of the Columbia Business School, recommends that goal-setters have an “if-then” plan. She says she applied this principle herself to lose weight after she had two children.

“I figured out exactly what I would eat, and, more importantly, how I would respond when temptations arose,” she says. “If I have a craving for a snack, then I will eat one piece of fresh fruit or three pieces of dried fruit. I lost about 50 pounds over a year and a half.”

Go for Two

Look at the whole picture and then think about setting two related goals rather than just one.

“New science tells us you’re just as likely to be successful in undertaking two changes at once, particularly if they are related,” Norcross says.

For example, commit to a new exercise regimen and a healthier meal plan at the same time. Or work to quit smoking along with a plan to better manage stress.