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If At First You Don’t Succeed – How to Make Changes That Last

Stefan Wissenbach

One of my mentors once told me that the phrase “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” should really be “If at first you don’t succeed, try again, and then change your strategy.” They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again, in the same way, and expecting a different result. So why do we do this in pursuit of our goals? The obvious one that comes to mind is the goal to lose weight. Thousands of people each year try to lose weight the same way they’ve tried – and failed – dozens of times before. Very few actually change their strategy, instead believing that the fault is within themselves instead of with the system they’re using.

Instead of changing their strategy, they are beating themselves up for failure – and what’s worse, they’re losing momentum and enthusiasm for their goal.

Yes, some goals are more difficult than others, but I believe that when you align your life – the choices you make, the actions you take, and the friends you keep – with your goals, you stand a far better chance of success. My personal strategy for tackling the most difficult life-changing goals is this:

What?

Why?

Who?

How?

When?

Yes, you might recognize that list of questions from Journalism 101, but I don’t use them to report a story. I use them to support my goals.

“What” is the name of your big goal. “Why?” is your reason for wanting to accomplish that goal – and is the most important factor in creating lasting change. For example, you might want to get healthy and make certain lifestyle changes so you can dance at your daughter’s wedding. The more you emotionally connect to your reason, the more powerful it becomes, which is why I recommend creating a vision board around it and placing it in a prominent location. “Who?” is the second most important factor in making a successful change, because this gets you to think about who you need onside to advise, guide and support you. Shared goals are 77 percent more likely to succeed, and when you share your goal with a respected mentor, your odds only go up from there. “How?” is the set of tasks you must achieve to accomplish your goal, and the “How” will likely be heavily influenced by the “Who?”

Finally, “When” is your timeline for achievement. I recommend setting goals for this week, the next three months, the next year, and the next three years for the best results.

Transferable Insight: When you emotionally connect to your goal and share it with someone you respect, your odds of finally creating lasting change increase dramatically.

Question: What is your goal? Who would the best person be to help you reach it? That person doesn’t need to be someone you know well – you could hire a personal trainer or a life coach – as long as he or she is someone you respect, has insight into how best to tackle your goal, and is willing to hold you accountable.

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