The Magic of "One Day at a Time"

One day at a time. It's the mantra of 12-Step programs, coaches and therapists.


Whether you're working on sobriety or any other important life goal, attempting too much too soon can be a recipe for disaster. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed if you try to imagine giving up alcohol or any other powerful habit on a permanent basis. It’s less distressing to think in terms of drinking just water for the next 24 hours or skipping a single happy hour. Similarly, if you expect to go directly from being a couch potato to running a marathon, you might give up before you even finish your first mile.


With any goal, you’re more likely to succeed with a gradual approach that allows you to boost your confidence and motivation. See what happens when you keep your focus on the present.



How to Live One Day at a Time:


1. Set priorities. Figure out what’s important to you and what you want to achieve. Start with the areas that will have the most significant impact on your quality of life or pick something that will give you an easy victory to build upon.


2. Create a timeline. You’re more likely to follow through with a commitment if you specify the time period. Aim to stop complaining for a single day or even an hour.


3. Limit distractions. Stay focused on your goals. Write them down to make them more concrete. Think about the purpose behind your actions and change your environment if necessary.


4. Persevere through obstacles. Obstacles and setbacks are to be expected! Plan ahead for what to do in case of setbacks. If you slip up, forgive yourself, and move on.

5. Celebrate your results. One of the advantages of a short time frame is that you can see the outcomes quickly. Thank yourself or use a tangible reward, like a pedicure or a fancy coffee drink.


6. Evaluate your progress. Stick to your plans but be flexible. Adjusting your strategy may help you to achieve even more.


Examples of Simple "One Day At A Time" Goals:


1. Consume one more vegetable. Do one thing to upgrade your nutrition - an easy place to start is adding one more serving of vegetables or fruit. Toss a handful of spinach or kale in your morning smoothie for breakfast, snack on a handful of carrots or an apple, or have a salad with lunch. Small, incremental positive changes are always good!


2. Get moving. Set aside time for a physical activity you enjoy. Invite a friend to join you for a bike ride after dinner or play a game of tennis in the morning before work. Or, take a furry friend for a walk!


3. Get your zzzzzz's. Do you struggle to get enough sleep or grow weary during the day? Move your bedtime back 15 minutes each night until you can wake up naturally feeling refreshed.


4. Give gratitude. Let your significant other or the people in your life know how much you appreciate them. Tell them what you admire about them, thank them for a difference they've made in your life, spend quality time with them or do an act of service for them! c


5. Spend quality time with your children. If you have kiddos at home, read them a story before bed or help them with their homework. Turn off the TV, so you can do arts and crafts or play catch outdoors.


6. Take a class. Learn something new each day. Sign up for a course online. Listen to a foreign language learning app while you’re brewing coffee or soaking in the tub.


7. Take time to reflect, meditate or pray. Cultivate your spirituality. Start with 5 minutes of quiet reflection and gradually increase the time if that feels comfortable. Visit your library or browse online for inspiring texts to read.


Remember that long journeys begin with a single step. If thinking too far ahead leaves you feeling like your goals are out of reach, shorten your perspective. Focus on what you can do today. The choices you make now will build momentum for making lasting change.


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