Out with the old, in with the new: Plan how to erase that mistake

In December and January, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

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    Every mistake can be erased – but some more easily than others. Acknowledge the impact of the mistake in your life, come up with a plan to change it, and take daily steps towards it.
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4. Plan how to erase that mistake.

Yesterday, we discussed how to dig into your life and figure out the single solvable mistake or problem that causes the most negativity and challenge in your life.

Today, we’re going to talk about how to kick that mistake directly in the teeth and send it packing.

I want you to take out a piece of paper and write that mistake at the top. Under that, start making a list of every single negative thing that mistake has caused in your life. When has that mistake brought you down? When has it held you back? When has it made you feel bad? When has it altered your life in a negative way?

Write them all down, or at least as many as you can stand to write down. Then step back and look at the huge impact that mistake has had on your life – and the impact it’s still making.

What would you be willing to give up to get rid of it?

Correcting a mistake is always a challenge. It always involves some sort of sacrifice. Hard work. Swallowing your pride. Giving up something that on some level you’re committed to. It is never easy.

The next step from here is to come up with a specific goal and a detailed game plan for reaching that goal.

Where do you want to be? What exactly constitutes success for solving that problem? What specifically does it mean to overcome the big mistake in your life?

For some challenges – like my own weight concern – the answer is easy. For others, like repairing relationships, the answer is a bit less straightforward. You have to piece together for yourself what exactly constitutes success.

Write down that goal. State it as clearly as you possibly can, and do it with your own hand. The permanence of a written goal is extremely powerful, particularly one that can lay waste to a lot of negative elements in your life.

Keep that written goal in a place that’s front and center in your life. Put it on the refrigerator. Tape it to the rear view mirror in your car. Wrap it around your credit cards. Whatever it takes.

How do you get there? What exactly do you need to do to get to where you want to be? This is actually more challenging than it seems, because many people will respond with some sort of idealized “perfect” plan that can never be attained.

Don’t. The perfect is the enemy of the good. You’re far better off pledging just to lose one pound a week than to lose 80 pounds in six months. Move towards your goal with small, steady steps that can be replicated and that, if you miss one step, doesn’t endanger all of your progress.

Write down those steps. Make a clear plan for carrying out your overall goal. Write down the steps you’re going to take in explicit detail, so it’s clear what you need to do on any given day to move towards the goal.

This way, you’re met with a specific and clear task to execute each day rather than dealing with vagueness and confusion. When you have that in hand, it feels much easier to move towards a goal than if you’re facing an uncertain path.

Now, it’s up to you. Are you going to live with the mistake – or are you going to knock it down and move forward with a great life?

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