Setting a Target Date for Huge Change

I can’t tell you how many times I have woken up one day and decided that this was the day to take the plunge and do stuff differently.  This approach to change never worked out for me long-term, except for when I smoked cigarettes.  I’ll never forget the day:  I woke up and said “enough of this crap”, and never went back to smoking…ever.  Other than that, the spontaneous “I’m going to do things differently” thing hasn’t yielded enduring results.

What has worked extremely well for me is the life overhaul target date (I just came up with that term while typing this post; I reserve the right to change it!).  The “target date” system works something like this:

Step 1: Choose Your Challenge.  I will use my new-found passion for exercise as an example.  This past August I decided I was going to get back in shape after a very long layoff.  I had definitely made up my mind that I was going to make this happen, no excuses.  I set my target date to September 1st; one month later.  Many people will say that this is procrastination, and for some it may be if they are not careful, but this was a very calculated move as far as I was concerned.

Step 2: Get Ready For Change.  This step has sub-steps.  Using exercise as an example, here is what I did:

  • I spent 5-10 minutes a day moving my body with no strings attached.  One day I would go for a walk, another I would do some bodyweight exercises for 5 minutes.  I used the app Gorilla Workout and posted my progress on Facebook for all to see (man, did people give me garbage for that app!).  I was slowly getting my body ready for the real deal one month later so my system wouldn’t be totally shocked.  If I wanted to take a day off, I could with no guilt.
  • I bought/borrowed/checked out a ton of books on fitness.  I read a lot of fitness blogs and researched different ways to get in great shape.  By the time a month passed, I knew which direction I wanted to go; I would start with jogging.  That led me to download the Couch-to-5K app, which I started using September 1st.

Step 3: Post Your Plan Everywhere!  Scream out to the world that you are going for it!  Post on Facebook, Twitter, tell your friends what your plan is; hold yourself accountable.  Do everything in your power to create a situation where you know you have some serious explaining to do if you don’t follow through.

Step 4: Go For It!  Your target date is upon you, now it’s time to put the pedal to the metal!  I found that the month of August was a “crescendo” of sorts; I was already on my way to being in shape from doing little things here and there throughout the month.  If I wanted to take a day off in August I could, but September on was mapped out.  I also had a great plan by that time.  It included:

The unintended by-product of all this?  Through giving myself time to research the program that I felt was best suited to my needs, I started eating healthier, drinking more water, and sleeping more.  I also learned a ton about how the body adapts to different exercises and hooked into some cool blogs on triathlon training and lean muscle-building.

If you plan your change ahead of time and give yourself a target date, I believe you will have a better chance of keeping with your program since you will be better armed with information.  It also gives you a great chance to “build up” to the change, making it less of a shock.

How about you?  Is going “cold turkey” with change better for you?  Are you more likely to procrastinate with my method?  Post a comment here!

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