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How to Get the Life You Want

Step 2: Find your cheerleaders.

"Accountability is the key to success," explains Fortgang. "You don't want to be left to your own devices when the going gets tough." Your support system can include family, friends, even someone you hire (such as a personal trainer). You might also want to try an online chat group like the stop-smoking site Quitnet.com, or check out "Drop the Weight for Good," to meet the women in REDBOOK's Real-Life Healthy Life program, and then form your own weight-loss support group (go to meetup.com/redbook for details).

Tell your pep squad that you'll check in with them at a specific, regular time with a status report (as in, "I'll email you after my weekly weigh-in every Friday morning") and when you need extra reinforcement ("The ice cream in the fridge is screaming to me—talk me out of it").

Step 3: Pat yourself on the back—regularly.

"Working toward your goal is an accomplishment in and of itself," says Fortgang. So reward yourself weekly: Put $5 toward a "new outfit fund," or give yourself a bouquet of flowers for staying smoke-free.

Be especially kind to yourself when you have setbacks. Instead of beating yourself up or quitting altogether, examine why you veered off course, figure out what you need to do to stay on track, and remind yourself that you're the smart, capable CEO of your busy life—and you have all the tools you need to keep moving forward! "Remember: You get to start over every day, every hour, every minute!" says Fortgang.

Ask yourself: Are you ready to reach for something really huge that you never thought you could accomplish?

Write a book or go back to school or renovate your home or start a volunteer group or...?

Your dream is a capital-B big one—and it feels like a mountain you're not sure you can climb. "These are 'wouldn't it be great if...' dreams," says Fortgang. "What's difficult about them is that people get tripped up by the 'how.' It's such a huge undertaking that you feel like you need to know how to do the whole thing from the get-go—and because you can't see the end, you think you don't know how to start."

That's what happened to 40-year-old Cate Colburn-Smith of Boulder, CO, who sat on the idea for her book, The Milk Memos, for two years before she finally went ahead and decided to do something about it. "I thought it would be impossible because I didn't know anything about publishing," she says. "But the experience taught me that it's okay to just start doing the work before you really know what you're doing." To jump right in:

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