How To Create An Action Plan To Achieve Your Goal (Even if you failed in the past!)

Change sucks. Whether you’re trying to build in more balance, boost your business, or stop binging on brownies, we can always find reasons NOT to take action. In my work with clients (especially women), I find that activities relating to self-care and prioritizing one’s own needs are often the most challenging. For most, we’ve been conditioned to put others’ needs ahead of our own. Carving out time for ourselves can feel scary or like we’re a selfish slacker.

It’s easy to find a million reasons not to take care of ourselves. Our excuses often outweigh our motivation to create change. So today, I’m going to walk you through a common self-care goal and show you the exact system I use to create any type of lifestyle change. This system not only addresses the obstacles that held you back, it also helps you to create a motivating plan for change. So, let’s get to it.


Step 1. Get clear on the benefits of your goal and what you’ll achieve.

This step is all about your “What & Why.” In other words, why is this change important to you? What do you want to achieve and what will that feel like? It’s not enough to focus on the textbook benefits, you need to go deeper and find what it means to you. For example, meditation has A TON of well-documented benefits including:

  • less stress
  • better sleep
  • improved physical & mental health
  • more energy
  • better memory

But that’s not going to get you to meditate. Why? Because it doesn’t create a clear visual of what you’ll achieve and how you’ll feel. Take it one step further and tap into what you’ll use those benefits for. For example, “Adding in 5 minutes of mediation each day will help me to (decrease my stress which will help me to) not flip out when my boss asks for a project update.”

Step 2. Address your personal obstacles.

These are the internal reasons that held you back in the past.

  • I stopped meditating because it’s frustrating. I couldn’t get my mind to stop wandering, so I gave up.
  • I don’t like being still. Feeling my feelings makes me want to reach for my phone and distract myself.

Writing out what previously held you back will stop the amorphous, unnamed fears from sabotaging you. And, it will help you to create a plan that addresses these challenges moving forward.

Step 3. Block out time to take action.

This step is crucial. It isn’t enough to focus on the internal obstacles that keep you stuck, you need to focus on the external. Why? Because we tend to procrastinate the things that are new and uncomfortable. We wait until we magically “find time,” rather than actively making time.

When a client tells me “I want to meditate, but I’m too busy,” I know their time management skills don’t support the life they want to create. The key to making a habit stick is to determine when and where it will happen in your routine. For example, if you’re committing to adding 5 minutes of meditation in the morning, visualize how it fits in with your current routine: “Every morning I brush my teeth, wash my face, meditate for 5 minutes, eat breakfast, etc.”

Step 4. Create your action plan.

To do this, draw on step #1 to get clear on your EXACT goal and why it matters to you. Look at the obstacles from step #2 and figure out how you’ll respond to each. Block out time and space (using your calendar or alarms as necessary) to incorporate it into your current routine. Go into as much detail as possible to ensure that when the time comes to take action, you aren’t scratching your head.


Step 5. Track Your Accomplishments.

Whether it’s creating a chart or using an app, celebrate each win. Be sure to acknowledge your progress and how far you’ve come!


To Review:

  1. List the benefits, how you’ll feel, and what you’ll achieve.
  2. Get clear on the personal obstacles that previously held you back
  3. Mange your time
  4. Create a detailed action plan
  5. Track and celebrate your success

The Takeaway:

To achieve new goals, you must be willing to try new things. Rather than using the same methods you used before and then beating yourself up for getting the same results, create a plan that draws on what didn’t work to propel you forward. Remember: how we do anything is how we do everything. Use these steps to troubleshoot the changes you struggle to make. And if you need support, I’ve got these 3 options for you. So go out there and take action!

How to Overcome Ambivalence & Take Action Now

I’m the first to admit that I don’t do well with change. I don’t like uncertainty and I don’t like people who tell me to “patiently wait,” “surrender,” or “carry snacks if you’re going to be that hangry.”

I’m a meditator who moonlights as a list-making, control freak.

So it was no surprise that while working with a client on her “Action Plan for Change,” a lightbulb went off. Most people want change, but never achieve it. Either they don’t have the support, structure, or science to create lasting results. I need to give my readers the behind-the-scenes tool I use to help clients stop second-guessing and take meaningful action.

In my training to transition from coach to therapist, I’ve learned countless approaches and theories on change. Today, I want to share the “Stages of Change Model.” Designed to modify behaviors and address motivational challenges, it determines which actions you should take based on your level of readiness. 

Why should this matter to you? Because understanding your readiness to change will help you to:

  • Find Answers
  • Make decisions
  • Stop judging yourself
  • Take action
  • Be okay with not always being okay

Addressing Ambivalence:

Everyone feels ambivalent at times. Often, we want 2 things that can’t coexist:

  • You want to leave your job, but you’re scared you won’t find anything else.
  • You’re unhappy in your relationship, but you don’t want to go on another first date.
  • You can’t decide between the warm comfort of pizza and the sweet siren song of a brownie.

The anxiety we feel before making a decision and the second-guessing that ensues is all part of the human experience. This is especially true when it comes to major life changes. The key to overcoming ambivalence and taking action is assessing your readiness to change. 


How The "Stages of Change" Work:

  • It’s a circle, not a line. This isn’t geometry lesson, it’s an annoying fact of life. Growth isn’t linear and neither is change. We move through the stages in an upward spiral.

  • Pre-contemplation is the stage where you aren’t thinking about making a change. Maybe you don’t see something as a problem, maybe it’s not that bad yet, or maybe you’re rationalizing it. Either way, this is the stage where you have no motivation to change because you don’t think there’s anything to change.

  • Contemplation is the stage where you’re on the fence. You’ll consider the possibility that maybe you might what to change, but you’re ambivalent. You haven’t made a decision, but you’re open (even if reluctantly) to the idea that a change might be warranted.

  • In the Preparation Stage you’ve made the decision to change and are making plans to change the behavior or situation that isn’t serving you.

  • In the Action Stage, you’re implementing your plan, continuing to adjust it as needed.

  • In the Maintenance Stage, you’re a few months into the change or new behavior. It’s getting easier and beginning to feel more natural.

  • In the Relapse Stage, you’ve taken a detour to your old behavior or situation. Whether it’s stress, transition or anything else, relapse is natural. It is a normal and necessary part of change, strengthening your resolve to a greater degree.

5 Steps To Create Change:

1. Determine your stage after reviewing the diagram above.

2. Strengthen your will to change by tapping into the reasons why you want to change now. Motivation is an emotion. Like any emotion, it can wax and wane. Learn how to maintain motivation here.

3. Choose from the following:

  • If you’re in the Contemplation Stage- Consider the advantages and disadvantages of making a change. Think back to previous attempts to change and the ways these methods helped or fell short. Use this tool to guide you.
  • If you’re in the Preparation Stage- Make a realistic plan.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my clients (and myself) that sustainable change doesn't happen overnight. Set yourself up for success by creating a start to finish plan that anticipates and addresses the challenges you faced when you made a previous attempt. It may be helpful to talk through your plan with a therapist, coach, or trusted advisor.
  • If you’re in the Action or Maintenance Stages- Follow you plan and adjust it as necessary. Reach out for support. Change isn’t easy. Nobody gets to where they are alone.
  • If you’re in the Relapse Stage- Focus on self-forgiveness and reach out for support. You may be tempted to give up your plan, but remember that this is an opportunity to learn what doesn’t work and alter it accordingly.

4. When you feel ambivalent or lose motivation, amplify the parts of you that want to create change while acknowledging the feelings that have previously kept you stuck. Tell yourself “Even though I would rather watch TV than go for a walk, I know I will feel better after I start.” Then, go back to your list of motivating reasons.

5. Reach out for support. Your friends and family want you to succeed! And while most of us suck at asking for help, new results come from taking new actions. 

The Takeaway:

Your awareness and motivation are the keys to beating ambivalence and creating lasting change. If you’re still on the fence about making a change, it’s better to clarify and plan than to go full steam ahead. Success comes from taking steps that align with your readiness to change.

If you're ready to make a change and want a customized plan to give you:

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  • Clarity on the change you want
  • The concrete and measurable action steps to make it happen
  • Strategies to address obstacles that previously got in the way
  • The secret to maintaining motivation

Then, check out My Action Plan.