Setting goals and New Year's resolutions can be great for some people. But if you are like me, you need to think much smaller than an entire year.

This is particularly true if you are in a hard season of life, such as raising little kids or if you have just suffered a devastating loss or illness in your family.

During these times in life, there is often still a desire to keep progressing and moving forward - especially at the start of a new year. But sometimes just the thought of trying to make progress when simply surviving is a struggle can seem like an impossible task.

In those times, I have found the best thing to do is think small.

1. What is something you would like to change or accomplish by the end of this year? If a year is too big, think about just the next month.

2. Now work backward. What would be the very first thing you would need to do in order to make that happen? For example, if you would like to start getting up early to exercise but are too exhausted to get out of bed in the morning, what's the very first thing that needs to happen? You need to get more sleep.

3. Think about what is stopping you from doing that first step or what needs to change so it can happen. What is keeping you from getting more sleep? If you are a night owl like me, maybe you are getting sucked into a good book, Facebook or Pinterest when you should be going to bed at night.

4. What could you do differently to change this one thing? You could set an alarm to help you remember to turn off your phone at 10 p.m. each night.

5. Perfect! Now you have your first small promise to yourself: "I promise I will turn off my cell phone when my alarm goes off at 10 p.m. tonight."

6. Keep that promise to yourself. It might not be easy, but it will be a small step in the right direction. Remember: you can do it. When 10 p.m. rolls around, turn off your cell phone.

7. Repeat. By keeping this one small promise to yourself, your brain will start to learn you can be trusted. Every day, make one small promise to yourself and then keep your promise.

Follow the path toward your goal, keeping one small promise to yourself every step of the way. Maybe the next small promise you make to yourself is to figure out what you hope to achieve from working out each morning whether it's to feel better, lose weight, or get stronger. Then you might move on to researching what type of exercise you might want to do to reach this goal, or when you need to get up so you have enough time to exercise.

Each one of these small steps is a promise you can keep to yourself. Little by little, you will start to notice you are making progress — even in the hardest times of your life.


Jenni DeWitt is married and has two sons, the youngest of whom battled childhood leukemia — and won. Jenni writes weekly for She is the author of “Forty Days” and “Why Won’t God Talk to Me?” You can read more about Jenni here.

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