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How to Reach Your Goals

Experts describe strategies for setting goals -- and making sure you achieve them.

Be Specific

There are two tricks to properly setting your goals, says University of Alabama at Birmingham clinical psychologist Joshua Klapow, PhD. Klapow is co-author of Stop Telling Me What-Tell Me How: The Simple Answer to Better Health.

First, turn goals into specific behaviors, says Klapow. "To say that you are going to exercise doesn't tell you which exercise to do, for how long and how frequently. If you don't know what to do, you are less likely to do the behavior. Be specific. Saying that you plan to walk five minutes a day -- and increase the time by one minute each week until you are walking 30 minutes per day -- is better than just saying that you plan to exercise."

Klapow's second tip is to make sure you are successful at reaching your goals right from the start. "Resolutions need to be things you can actually do," he says. "This is important because you are more likely to repeat the behaviors in which you are successful. Set short- and long-term target goals and make the short-term goals easy to reach."

At this time of year, when many of us are making New Year's resolutions, Klapow reminds us that resolutions are basically a set of new behaviors. Because the behaviors are new, and not learned habits, we have a tendency to slip back into our old behavior patterns.

"The best way to keep track of what you are doing every day," says Klapow, "is to get a calendar and write down every time you perform your new habit. Don't leave it up to your mind because your mind can play tricks on you. Three days without performing your new habit is your sign that you may be slipping."

The Benefits of Intuition

Using your intuition can also help you reach your goals, says Lynn A. Robinson, MEd, author of Real Prosperity: Using the Power of Intuition to Create Financial and Spiritual Abundance. Robinson offers three tips for achieving a specific goal:

  • Stay focused on the positive. Pay attention to what is working, not what isn't. Perhaps a friend called to cheer you up, or your child got off to school this morning without a major tantrum, or you had a really nice lunch with a colleague. "Find those precious slivers of appreciation in each day."
  • Take small steps. There is a two-part trick of working toward a goal: No. 1, just begin, and No. 2, start small. Take a first step toward what you feel excited about and then take another one, and then another one. "Remain centered in the present."
  • Make your intuition your ally. Intuition is "quick and ready insight" and it's one of the most helpful tools to use when faced with any kind of decision making. It's also a skill that can be developed. The more you practice it the better you get at it. How does your intuition speak to you? Do you receive information in words, feelings, a flash of insight, a body sensation? Do you just know? "Intuition is the secret weapon of many successful people who describe it as knowing something directly without going through a long analytical process," says Robinson.

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