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We’ve trained our brains for certain behaviors using repetition and what’s known as “the habit loop.” This loop involves a trigger, a behavior and a reward. Consequently, changing an existing habit or starting a new habit is pretty difficult.

One of the main components to success in doing so is to start small. Using smaller steps that you can build on, will help you avoid slip-ups and enable you to reward yourself more along the way. Both of which enable you to achieve your goal more quickly and at a higher success rate. When it comes to habits, starting with smaller goals and using them to build up to your ultimate goal is more effective than trying to accomplish the entire goal all at once.

These mini-goals should be ones that you can tackle pretty easily. With the achievements that mini-goals allow, there is less room to slip-up. Slip-ups like not following through or giving up are decreased when you feel like you’re achieving. An example of this would be, you want to make running a habit and your goal is to be able to run a 5k. It wouldn’t make sense to start out day 1 and try to run 3 miles. It would be better to start small-maybe run half a half mile and walk the rest of the way, slowly working up to running the full 3 miles. Since the goals are smaller, they’re much less overwhelming, therefore setting you up for better overall success and fewer slip-ups. Taking smaller steps in order to achieve your ultimate goal will give you the opportunity to reward yourself along the way.

Rewards help the brain solidify habits. The more you successfully achieve these mini-goals, the more that specific habit becomes ingrained. One reward that’s easy to use is logging your accomplishments. This not only makes you feel great, it is perceived as a reward by your brain. More obvious rewards can also be used, especially when the reward refers directly to the goal. Buy yourself the new pair of running shoes you’ve been holding off on or new earbuds made for running. Small goals are important when trying to form new and change old habits. Things such as mini-goals and use of a reward system will help you achieve your goals. Ultimately, turning the mini-goals into full blown habits that you do every day with little effort.

 

Burnout recovery specialist, intuitive, and physician Dr. Veronica Anderson teaches high-performing professional women how to make successful career, health, and life transformations by overcoming challenges and developing resilience. She is the author of three bestselling books and splits her time between Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and Harlem, New York City, with her husband and two dogs, Artemis and Apollo.

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