If you’re like many people, you’ve probably resolved to start a new diet many times, only to find yourself quitting after just a few days or weeks. Maybe the change felt too drastic, too overwhelming, too unsustainable. Maybe you chalked it up to bad luck, or maybe you concluded that you must not have wanted it badly enough.
Chances are, the reason you weren’t able to achieve your goal wasn’t due to a lack of willpower or setting an unrealistic goal. Most likely, the reason you weren’t able to reach your goal may have resided in your approach — you weren’t thinking small enough.
The trick to achieving goals may be in taking small steps. For example, if you eat mostly takeout foods or frozen meals due to your busy schedule, resolving to eat a healthier diet may sound like an unattainable goal. It can feel intimidating to consider all the changes you need to make — you may need to learn how to cook nutritious meals, go grocery shopping more often to stock your fridge with fresh, healthy food, and plan your meals and snacks for the week so you’re not caught off guard when hunger strikes.
But instead of throwing in the towel after just a day or two, set yourself up for success by breaking down your large goal into small steps. If you want to eat healthier, first identify what your barriers to healthy eating are. By identifying your obstacles right away, you can proactively prepare how you will react when you inevitably encounter them.
For instance, if a major obstacle for you is your busy schedule, research ways to overcome this challenge. Maybe one way is to make two or three dishes on the weekends when you have more time, then portion them out so you can grab a ready-to- go meal during the week. If you find this step still too large and unattainable, try breaking down the step even further — you could commit to making just one dish on the weekend. Once you have incorporated that one dish into your routine, try making an additional dish and continue on from there.
If your biggest obstacle is not knowing what healthy meals to make, you could research some simple but healthy recipes online, watch YouTube tutorials on healthy cooking techniques, or take a beginner’s cooking class. If any of these steps still seem too intimidating, a smaller step could be to commit to eating a healthy breakfast that is simple and easy to make, such as oatmeal, every morning. Once you have adjusted to this new habit, you can try adopting another healthy change, such as including a piece of fresh fruit with every meal.
It may seem silly to set such small goals, and you may feel like accomplishing them won’t get you any closer to your large goal. But while it may not seem like it, accomplishing these small goals will help you gain the confidence, momentum, and skills necessary to achieve the larger goals. It’s much less intimidating to adopt the next small step than it is to tackle your large goal all at once. Lasting change can happen — just think smaller!