In my private counseling practice, clients often tell me, "I want to be happy!" We then set about making it a reality. As a psychotherapist, I know that your habits, your relationships, your environment, and especially what you think about them determine more about how happy you are than your genes do because I've watched so many people figure out how to meet their goals and create their own happiness. You can improve any part of your life you wish: your relationship with yourself, your relationships with others, your work life, your home life, and even your health. The following steps will help you reach any goal you set for yourself.
4 Steps to Success
- Choose the goal.
- Break it down into small, non-intimidating steps.
- Do something. (If you can't get yourself to do it, you haven't made the steps small or easy enough; go back to Step 2.)
- Celebrate what you've done (yes, every little step).
For example, suppose you're interested in bringing more physical activity and music into your life, and you choose a folk-dancing class. Break the goal down into manageable steps: (1) Call around to find out what classes are available; (2) choose a class to attend; (3) enroll in the class; (4) go to the first class meeting; (5) evaluate the class as to whether it's a good one for your purposes.
Those steps may seem simplistic, but that's the idea. Make it as easy as possible to do each step. That way you won't be discouraged by I can't" before you start.
Breaking your goal down into the smallest possible steps makes it easier to accomplish the next phase: Do something. Many of us know how to set goals but not how to achieve them, so we've "proved" to ourselves over and over that we're failures. That's not true at all. The failure lies in not having completed the rest of the Four Steps to Success.
You've just made the third step to your goal as simple as possible, so there are no reasons not to take it. Go ahead and focus on the third step only: Do something.
After you've taken the third step, celebrate. Recognition of what you've accomplished is important. It also helps to celebrate each step you take toward your goal as you take it. This way you won't run out of energy before you achieve success, and you'll keep encouraging yourself as you proceed.
Your celebration can be just looking into your mirror and saying, "Congratulations, you've just made the first (second, third) step toward achieving your goal." Or your celebration can be more elaborate, such as toasting your accomplishment with a friend or two. It can even be a major party. The important thing is that you do something to make sure you notice you’ve had some success, however small. It is this celebration that will give you the courage and confidence to go on all the way in achieving your goal.
As you achieve your goal, go back to the Four Steps and choose a new goal; then follow the steps through again. Repeat this until you've created or achieved what you want.
Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., "Dr. Romance," is a licensed psychotherapist in private practice in Long Beach, Calif. since 1978 and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again and Lovestyles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She publishes the Happiness Tips from Tina email newsletter, and the Dr. Romance Blog. She has written for and been interviewed in many national publications, and she has appeared on Oprah, Larry King Live and many other TV and radio shows.