When’s the last time you unlocked your car door, sat in the driver seat, turned the ignition to hear the sound of the engine and think to yourself “I really need to buy a new car?” That feeling may have come while navigating trecherous roads in a rainstorm, wishing your safety rating were a little better. Or it may come to mind when bags of groceries are piled onto your passenger seat because you can’t find room for the eggs and butter with the tissue paper and other goods taking over your backseat and trunk

In this situation, you know that a new car would change your life in so many productive ways, yet the process of buying a new car leads to feeling pressure before you’ve ever begun the search.

Creating any real change in your life can seem heavy and daunting when you first envision it, even when it’s in your best interest. The truth is, when you begin to take the small steps necessary to get what you want out of life, the tentative feelings of “what if…” fade away as the “can’t-dos” become “will-dos.”

Later on, looking at your old habits through your rearview, you’ll forget that you ever felt weighed down by them to begin with. The process of forming positive habits starts with setting a goal, making a simple plan and sticking to it.

Set positive goals

Positive habits start with personal reflection. What will make you more comfortable and confident in your everyday life? When buying a new car, you must picture yourself driving to work and back, running errands and taking long trips. It’s the vision you have for a happy life that will guide you to success and fulfillment.

Setting goals starts with being as honest and detailed with your personal aspirations as you can be. Is it a sleek sedan with leather seats and luxury features? Maybe’s it’s an SUV you can sit high that is high off the ground and has a lot of storage space. There are hundreds of options to choose from, so it’s not enough to simply say you want a new car.

If you want to be physically fit and healthy, first identify why and what for in order to focus on behaviors that will fuel you on the road to success. Being physically fit can mean having more energy to play with your children, training to run a road race for a charity cause, being better conditioned to work more productively or simply staying in shape to ensure a long-lasting, healthy lifestyle. What does physical fitness mean to you?

Whatever your goal is, hone in on the very reason why you want to make this positive change in your life and create reminders for yourself. That way, any time you question if your new habits are worth the energy and sacrifice, you’ll have an easier time removing your doubt.

Step-by-Step, Day-by-Day

A goal is your vehicle to real change, though it will need some basic upkeep for it to run well and remain reliable. Map out your path to success on paper, writing down what small actions you will take to reach your big goals and when. Research shows that people who write down their goals are much more likely to succeed than others.

If tomorrow you ate fresh fruit and steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, ate a small meal every three hours afterward without snacking or eating sweets, spent 45 minutes at the gym and skipped your nightly cocktail after dinner, you’ll have had a healthy day. However, that doesn’t make you physically fit.

It does means you’re beginning the process of forming a positive habit! Eating well and regular exercise are both examples of real changes you can install into your daily routine to make for a healthier lifestyle. In order to see the results of these changes, it takes consistency over time.

Small Changes, Meaningful Rewards

Start by intergrating small changes into your lifestyle. Instead of spending all of your time at the gym or creating a complete overhaul of your diet, focus on spending 30 minutes each day doing nothing but exercise and substitute your pasta with pesce at dinner (fish!), for example.

You don’t need to give up everything you love to make real change in your life. It’s better to integrate new habits into your routine gradually, building on them as time goes on so it doesn’t feel like such a disruption to your everyday life.

Over time, build milestones into your daily routine to reward yourself for sticking to your new habits. If you made it through the week without cheating on your diet, there is no harm in having a couple handfuls of potato chips. In fact, it’s healthy! Just think about how tasty those chips will be after a week away from them.

Behind the Wheel

When you buy a new car, it’s clean and has a distinct scent to it. You sit up a little straighter when you drive in one. At any opportunity you’re excited to show it off to your friends. Once you have it, you never really think about the process of searching for the right dealer and making a financial plan. You’re just thrilled to be in the driver seat.

Positive habits make small experiences in your life more enjoyable. Soon, these benchmarks lead to milestones until you eventually hit your goals. By keeping these steps to success ambitious, yet manageable, you will hardly notice a difference in your everyday life, until one day you realize how much happier your lifestyle has become.

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