STEP ONE: List the costs and benefits of doing the task you are putting off. Examine each list and weigh each side by dividing 100 points (for example, you find that the advantages of doing the behavior you have been putting off outweigh the disadvantages by 60 to 40). If the result of weighing the costs and the benefits points to doing the behavior then proceed to Step Two.

STEP TWO: Plan to do a specific step toward accomplishing your goal. The step you decide to take should be easily accomplished a brief period of time. You may have to break down your goal into several components. The old saying that every journey begins with one step applies to setting goals. Choose one step and don’t worry about reaching the long-term goal.

STEP THREE: Take a moment to anticipate any barriers or problems that may interfere with your goal. Anticipating problems can help you to find a solution before you become discouraged. For example, you know that you are going to a party where there are going to be snacks but your goal is to not eat between meals. By anticipating this, you can take steps to eat a meal before you go to the party so that you are full when you arrive.

STEP FOUR: Identify negative thoughts that undermine your effort. Some typical thoughts include:

Negative Thought

1. I must accomplish every goal.

2. My goals must be highly challenging.

3. There is no use in trying because I have failed to reach this goal in the past.

4. There is so much to accomplish, I feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

5. I’m going to be miserable trying to accomplish this goal.

Positive Thought

1. I can only control my effort, not the outcome.

2. I can start out with rather simple goals and then increase their difficulty.

3. I will only fail to reach my goals if I quit trying. I’ll keep trying even though it has been difficult to accomplish this goal.

4. I need to break down this goal into smaller steps that are not so overwhelming.

5. It is going to be difficult but I will feel great when I have made progress toward this goal.

STEP FIVE: Establish a means for accountability. Set up some way to evaluate your progress and share your outcome with at least one other person. Help this individual to know that you are looking for encouragement not criticism. You may want to develop a method for charting your progress or simply develop a rating scale for yourself. For example, you could rate your progress toward your goal on a 1 to 100 scale each day. Make the evaluation simple and not a burden to complete.

STEP SIX: Plan to reward yourself for progress toward the goal, not just for reaching the goal. The reward can be a simple statement like, “You are doing great!” or you may want to reward yourself with a more lavish reward.

Setting My Goal

What is my goal that I want to accomplish?

If I were to take a step toward that goal today, what could I attempt to do?

What obstacles might I encounter from others that would interfere with this goal? How can I overcome these obstacles?

What internal obstacles might undermine my efforts? How might I prevent these thoughts or attitudes interfering with my effort to reach this goal?

Take a minute to imagine yourself reaching this goal. Now anticipate rewarding yourself with positive thoughts and benefits from reaching this goal. How do you want to be rewarded?

Who can you include in your plans to reach this goal? Seek out someone who can hold you accountable without being critical or discouraging.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Horton is a psychologist whose specialty is helping marriages in crisis. His website offers a free eBook download to help you determine whether your marriage is in crisis. His book Crumbling Commitment: Managing a Marital Crisis (Lulu) is available to guide couples through this difficult time. His blog is