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Health & Balance

How to Get the Life You Want

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Step 2: Make room for your dream—literally.

The writer Virginia Woolf famously said that one of the keys to a woman's freedom is having a room of one's own. Claiming a space where you can indulge in your passion is like saying, "X marks the spot." It's an expression of your decision to take your dream seriously.

So designate a writing area in your living room. Place an easel in a corner of the bedroom. Don't need a specific spot to practice your passion? Make an altar to your effort: Display items that move you (photographs, a row of vintage fountain pens) or create an "inspiration board" by pinning motivating clippings to a bulletin board (a poem you love, an ad for an exhibit you want to attend). When Mabilog set up her basement studio and hung her photographs around her home, she started to feel like the real deal.

Step 3: Set a date.

Every type of goal needs structure, says Fortgang. Otherwise, real life just washes over it like a tidal wave and sweeps it away. To build a solid foundation for this or any dream, construct a schedule: Decide how much time you'll devote to your hobby, whether it's an hour each night or twice a week for two hours, and block it off on a calendar—this "makes a promise" to that time and, by extension, to yourself.

Then, commit to that schedule for 90 days—that's just long enough to create a habit; face the challenges of making room for your dream in your busy life; and decide if you're going to keep at your goal for good, says Fortgang. "As you move along, don't judge the time you're using or try to measure whether it's productive," she adds. "Just get absorbed in the activity, and follow the joy as it develops."

Ask yourself: Are you ready to finally tackle the burden or bad habit that's been dragging you down?

Quit smoking or lose weight or stop biting your nails or be on time or...?

To truly commit to these more "ordinary" yearnings, you need to give them the same emotional investment and time as "bigger" dreams. Know, too, that tackling this type of goal may be especially difficult for you if you've tried—and failed—to achieve it in the past. Or perhaps it's daunting because you're not sure you're ready to do the hard work it requires. Either way, the longer you let yourself live with this albatross, the more your self-esteem suffers. To change all that:

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