Have hope. It’s a good thing. Losing hope is a bad thing. Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

It’s just that too many of us only hope things will change, get better, and then that is all we do. We hope, but we don’t do anything, we don’t decide.

Once you decide, however, there are only two possible outcomes. You either get what you were aiming at or you create good reasons (excuses) why you did not succeed.

Instead of hoping you can get in better shape this year, decide to get in better shape this year.

Don’t just hope you will become a better parent or spouse this year, decide you will become a better parent or spouse this year.

You could hope to save some money this year, or could decide to save some money this year.

Once you have decided, then it’s time to make a specific plan for how you are going to get there. Making a plan does not have to be a complex and burdensome task. Making a plan can be as simple as saying, “I’m here, I want to be there.” Then comes step one, step two, step three, step four and so on.

You might not know what the steps are, and that’s fine. If you don’t know what the steps are, don’t use that as an excuse. Find out. Read a book on the subject. Find someone who has done or is doing what you want to do and find out how they did it. Hire a counselor or coach to guide and motivate you.

Once you get started, watch out for three of the deadliest words that can derail you in a hurry. These three deadly words are “Just this once …” Just this once I’ll not go to the gym, watch television instead of listening to my spouse or child, spend the money set aside for saving, etc.

The problem with “just this once” is it rarely stays just this once. Just this once becomes just one more time, a new pattern is set, and pretty soon you forget all about what you were wanting to do.

Hearing yourself say “just this once” needs to become a big red flag of warning to you. So the next time you are tempted to give in to just this once, turn these words on their head. Tell yourself that “just this once” I’ll stay consistent and keep going with the plan.

Remember how simple it can be. I’m here, I want to be there. One, two, three four.

Don’t just hope, decide.

Jeff Herring, MS, LMFT, is a marriage and family therapist.


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