By Maria Buoni

Whether you are trying to lose weight or get your finances in shape, lifestyle changes are difficult to make. Here are a few suggestions to help you successfully introduce those new elements into your life.

Set Goals

Whether you set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals or use another system, begin by setting goals. What would you like to accomplish? When would you like to accomplish it? What are the steps you will need to take along the way? Are these steps doable for you? We are talking about lifestyle changes, which are all long-term projects, but they can all be broken down into little pieces to be done daily or weekly. Take a look at both your overall goal as well as the steps along the way before you begin. Continue to evaluate them as you make progress. Things will inevitably come up in your life to add complications. Maybe one month you are able to take a step forward every day, but the next month you may have vacations, events with the kids, surprise health issues, etc. that throw a wrench into your plans. That is OK. Adjust your overall goal if needed and keep moving toward it.

Start Small

Lifestyle changes are difficult. You already have your routines and habits in place, and altering them can be a daunting task. We are all creatures of habit and we like things the way we have done them. But we sometimes discover that the way we have done things has not led to the life we want. We want something different for ourselves. But how do we get there? Trying to do it all at once is not only a recipe for failure, but it is also disheartening. It discourages you from ever trying to tackle your goal again. You are making a difficult change to begin with, so start slowly and let yourself succeed. Instead of adopting a completely new diet and workout regimen all at once, make a couple small changes at a time. Then once you have successfully adopted those changes, you will be ready to integrate the next small changes. The goal is not to be miserable. The goal is to succeed in changing your lifestyle.

Celebrate Successes

You have stuck with a small change for two weeks — that’s great! Tell your friends and family! Share your success with people you love and let them cheer for you. Tell them about your goal and how they can help you to continue to succeed. Do not feel like you can only celebrate once you accomplish your eventual goal. Celebrate every time you take a step toward it. Remember that this whole process is a big change for you, so keep the fun, joy and rewards going all along the way. High fives, hugs and words of encouragement can help you keep moving forward. And when you get to your ultimate goal, celebrate some more!