The One-Day-at-a-Time Technique
Long-term goals are achieved in short-term segments

By Harold Taylor

Have you broken your New Year's resolutions yet? One study found that 70% of us have broken our New Year's resolutions by the end of January. New Year's resolutions, like goals, are easy to set, but harder to accomplish. In a typical year in the U.S., 17,300,000 smokers quit, at least for a day, but only 1,300,000 of these quit for at least a year.

To accomplish any resolution or goal you must be committed to change. You must want to achieve that goal so much that you will muster enough self-discipline to persist, in spite of the temptation to slip back into comfortable ways. You need the motivation to succeed. To be motivated you must believe you can do it. You must believe in yourself. Motivation is the product of the strength of your desire to achieve something, and the strength of your expectancy that it will be accomplished. If you don't think you can do something, you're right. But if you really want something and you know you can achieve it you will.

If you make up your mind to walk or jog every morning or give up desserts or lose five pounds by the end of the month or listen more attentively without interrupting, you can do it. You can do it a day at a time. To give up desserts or coffee or anything else that you enjoy is just too overwhelming if it requires a lifetime of self-denial. But if you tell yourself that you are just going to do it for a day, it's suddenly easy.

Anyone can give up smoking for one day, or jog one morning or skip the bedtime snack one evening. The next day is a new commitment to make the change that day as well. The following day becomes a new commitment. And eventually the habit is broken. Habits are broken or formed one day at a time. Goals are achieved one day at a time.

It takes desire and belief and commitment to get through that one day, but it's a lot easier than giving up something forever. One of my sons, who had tried unsuccessfully to quit smoking many times finally embarked on the one-day-at-a-time technique.

Each morning he would tell himself that he was not going to smoke that day. He would repeat the same affirmation the next day and the next. If you asked him if he had given up smoking he would reply, "No. It's too difficult to give up smoking. But I'm not smoking today." It was years before he would admit that he had actually given up smoking and even then he was quick to add that there were no guarantees for the future. He was still working on it a day at a time. But success breeds success. And as his lungs cleared, his taste buds sharpened and his health improved, his motivation increased even more.

Having a goal is not good enough. There must be a reason for the goal. This provides the desire and the resultant commitment. When I gave up drinking coffee there was a strong reason to do so. Suffering from arthritis that threatened my speaking career and wanting to avoid taking anti-inflammatory drugs that attacked my stomach (I had bleeding ulcers in the past,) I did a lot of reading on the ailment.

Discovering that diet could have a profound effect on arthritis in some cases, I embarked on a diet, which included giving up coffee. Ensuing headaches, which could have been quickly alleviated by a coffee fix, did not dissuade me, simply because my motivation was high. And I only had to give up coffee for one day. Then one more day. Again and again. Within three weeks the headaches and arthritis were gone. After three years I don't even miss the coffee any more. And only on cold mornings when I smell a fresh brew am I even tempted.

There were others things I gave up at the time, such as red meat, salt and excessive sugar. And I took fish oil supplement. But the tough thing for me to give up was coffee. Even if it is proven that the coffee did no harm and my arthritis coincidentally went into regression at the same time, so what? Water is better for me anyway.

The next time you want to develop a good habit, rid yourself of a bad habit or achieve a goal that seems overwhelming, try the one-day-at-a-time technique. It works.

Harold Taylor, president of Harold Taylor Time Consultants Inc. has been speaking, writing and conducting training programs on the topic of effective time management for over 25 years. He has written 15 books and 200 articles, developed over 50 time management products and presented over 2000 workshops - all on the the topic of time management.
Harold Taylor Time Consultants Inc.

1271 Gorham St., Unit 12, Newmarket, Ontario, Canada L3Y 7V1
Telephone: 905-853-9328; Fax: 905-853-9390; Subscribe to our free electronic Time Tips Newsletter at


If you liked this article, you'll enjoy this book
by Harold Taylor, Procrastinate Less and Enjoy Life More,
which provides 25 ways that you can overcome procrastination, increase your personal effectiveness and enjoy life more. Click here: Great Reading


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