How to Make Your Goals Stick

How to Make Your Goals Stick

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

“A dream without a plan is a wish.”  In the past two blogs about change we’ve spent some time breaking down the foundations that help people change: Self-awareness and the decision to change.  Now, once you make a goal, how do you make sure to succeed in achieving it? After all, an admirable feat is not just about our launch, but how we finish. Below are some tips on finishing well.

  1. Pair your end-goal with something enjoyable.  Small rewards help provide a boost of motivation, and they don’t have to be exotic or expensive! Things you truly enjoy, like a steaming cup of coffee in the morning, music, or spending time with friends can be paired up with habits that you are trying to build. For example, if your goal is to journal everyday, create a routine of journaling with your favorite drink. This will increase the likelihood of you beginning to crave the activity. Brainstorm ways that you can incorporate your new goals with things that you naturally enjoy.
  2. Define Option B. If your goal is to stop damaging behaviors, identify the triggers that cause you to lurch towards the harmful activity. If your goal is to stop binging on junk food, keep healthy alternatives in your kitchen or make a habit of going outside for a walk when the urge to binge kicks in. If you are trying to stop chewing your nails, think of an alternative activity to occupy your hands when you are feeling anxious. If your alternative plan is too lofty or is something that you hate it, your heart won’t be in it and you will give up. You are more likely to succeed in lasting change when your alternative option is something you like to do and easy to do.
  3. Hold yourself accountable to another.  Find accountability by joining forces with a buddy or a group that is interested in pursuing a similar goal. For example, if you want to run a marathon, join a local running club. Those who hold themselves accountable to one another are most likely to succeed in the goals they set for themselves.
  4. Recalibrate. Oftentimes, circumstances like sickness, job loss, etc. can interrupt established routines. Accept that there will be bad days, days when you feel down, or days when your schedule seems out of control. Instead of having the expectation that these things should never get in the way of your plans, come to terms with life’s unpredictability. Schedule a few times throughout the year where your sole purpose is to evaluate your goals. As you evaluate them, think about what is helping you make progress and what roadblocks get in your way. Adjust your plan based on what you learn.
  5. Celebrate.  Recognize the milestones that you have achieved and celebrate them. Give yourself credit for the progress that you have made. Take the time to relish the goodness that comes with moments of success.

Go ahead and embrace a growth mindset, a mindset that seeks to grow and to learn.  As you do so, you will be a better student, parent, spouse, and employee/employer.

Your turn.  In the comment below, share what are some of the things you have found that have been helpful in helping you stick to your goals.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Creating Winning Habits

Creating Winning Habits

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

This is part two of the second blog in our resolution series, “How Do You Convince Yourself to Change?,” which you can read here. Once you have decided that you want to change and commit to measurable goals, the next step is creating winning habits that will take you to the finish line!

Create Habits that Work for You:

Once you have defined specific goals, build a routine that works for your schedule. If you plan to go to the gym in the morning three days a week, establish a routine that ensures your greatest success in the morning (i.e, put gym clothes on  immediately after waking up, set the alarm clock, have breakfast ready to go).  If your goal is to spend 10 minutes a day with your spouse to talk, figure out when that time will be, and create rituals that will help  facilitate that time. Brew tea, make a cup of coffee, get a notebook where you and your spouse and jot down stories that you want to share or remember.  Once you have established routines, and you work the routine out for a couple of months, the activity and mindset will begin to become part of who you are.

Remember the 3:00 o’clock coffee story I shared in my last blog post? Once the habit is established, you no longer have to decide each day to be grateful, to exercise or to eat healthier. Once you become habituated into the pattern, your brain will begin to expect the routine. Just like I anticipated the coffee, you will find yourself anticipating eating the healthy apple during a break at work, you will crave the hugs you receive and give from your loved ones before bolting out the door.  And just like every day you automatically seem to brush your teeth or drive yourself to work without thinking about it, your good habits will take over your poor ones and these will ultimately be folded into the very fabric of who you are.

Celebrate the Small Wins:

Success is a series of small wins. Celebrate each day you follow through with your goal. Celebrate after you succeed and celebrate while you are engaging in the activity. You can also create reinforcing activities that motivate you to keep the course when you pair an activity with another enjoyable activity. For example, if your goal is to get on an elliptical 30 minutes a day/3-days a week after work, stream your favorite show only during this time. Or if you love coffee, make sure you have the coffee ready when you spend your distraction-free 10 minutes talking with your spouse. If your goal is play with your kids 15 minutes a day, find an activity you both enjoy doing. Pushing towards a goal will be less of a grind if you find enjoyment in the process.

Write down your goals and achievements. Journal your progress and make a mental note of emotional and/or physical changes that you have experienced. As you savor the small positive changes that take place, you will feel more encouraged to stay on the course.

You can be the biggest obstacle to your own success. Convince yourself to change, and you will have won half the battle.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

How do You Convince Yourself to Change?

How do You Convince Yourself to Change?

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

The strong aroma of coffee would begin to perk me up before I even had my first sip of espresso. I worked as Director of Financial Aid while at completing my graduate work at TIU, and everyday at 3 pm, gracious coworkers would bring us a cup of cuban espresso. The experience became such an ingrained routine that the first memory that comes to mind when I think of my time at the University is the rich taste of the coffee. In the midst of sluggish afternoons, my coworkers and I would being to anticipate the arrival of the espresso.

Around 2:30 pm, those in the office would already begin to experience “the espresso joy,” knowing that we only had to wait a little longer until we received the caffeinated comfort that we had become accustomed to.

This experience of anticipation, of feeling the joy that something brings before we even receive it, is something studied by researchers when looking at the role of habit and routine. When you want to change, when you know what you want to change and when you have made a decision to change, you need to create habits and routines that allow the change to stick.

In this second blog in our resolutions series, we will explore the second component of change: making the decision to change.


Deciding to Change:

Self-awareness is like an internal mirror – it’s reflection reveals patterns that create either chaos or order in your life. When you have a problem such as explosive anger, binge eating, or impulsive shopping, you need to identify the circumstances and events that precipitate the problem that you want to correct. Once you reflect on what motivates your actions, you need to feel a sense of urgency and conviction to spur you on to make the needed changes.

Self-awareness without conviction can lead to a dangerous mindset consisting of complacency, self-pity, and even shame. And these forces can lead to a feeling of helplessness – an enemy that prevents change from happening. So, how can you persuade yourself to change?


    1. Write down a list of reasons why you should change. Write down the pros and cons of changing. For example, what would be the benefit of not exploding in anger around your family and co-workers? Make sure that your reasons are personal.
    2. What will happen if you don’t change? What is the worst thing that can happen if you continue living the way you are today?  What do you want to be like 5, 10, 15 years from now? Frame a picture in your mind of the worst and best version of yourself.
    3. Remember a time you were successful. Think about a previous effort you made to reach a goal, to do something different and think about how it felt to succeed. Dream about what your life would look like if you were able to forgive your spouse, if you managed your anger better, if you handled your impulses better.
    4. Go ahead and list all of your excuses. Write down all of the reasons why you have not changed already, or why previous attempts to change have failed. Highlight each excuse and be honest with yourself. What do you gain by not changing? What do you lose?


  • Find a hero. Is there a figure who shared a similar struggle and succeeded in achieving their goals? Watch a movie or read a book about such a person to gain inspiration and encouragement.
  • Choose one thing. When many faults come to the surface, it is easy to come up with a list of 100 things to change. Choose one thing that you can wrap your energy around. Break this one thing down into simple micro-moments.  For example, decide to greet your spouse with a kiss and hug everyday after work, instead of rattling off a list of complaints. This simple micro-moment will ultimately lead to a stronger relationship. A broad relationship goal such as “be happier in my marriage” may be frustrating because of the many factors thatcome into play. Instead, choose one thing to do and hone in on the micro-moments. Eventually, all of the micro-moments will add up and make a significant difference.
  • Make a commitment. Write down, “I am going to…”  Share your decision with someone you trust. When you share a commitment you have made, you are more likely to follow-through on your decision. You are more likely to stay true to your commitment if you have a friend or family member holding you accountable.

Define the Goal. Now that you have decided to change, the work begins. You should define goals that are SMART(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timed). For example, “I will share one reason a day I am grateful to my spouse,”  Or “I will eat healthy snacks at work and will stock my lunch bag with healthy options so that I follow through on my goal.” Specifically identify what you want to do differently – the less vague your goal is, the more attainable it will be.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

Contributed by
Robert Salazar

New Year. New Me. So it goes, right? Every January we make little missions to live life more fully and expand our lives. “life” is a big word. It has so many definitions beyond just gym memberships and eating vegetables.

Luckily, smarter people than me have considered life’s possibilities, one of whom is Woody Guthrie, a folk rock pioneer and all around genius of life.

How can I call him a genius of life? Well, just look at his “New Year’s Rulin’s”

He starts out with what we all decide. “1. Work More and Better.”

We could all benefit from learning to work smarter, or, when we get back home, finishing that novel that has been sitting on our shelf. By saying “better” Guthrie implies that we can improve our work’s quality, not just it’s dividends. He gives us some advice as to how by saying, “Work by a schedule.” We all work via some system, and every system needs a reboot every once in a while.

He ends by saying, “33. Wake up and fight.” Again, he makes such an open and rounded suggestion that has many definitions. This year, I’m going to think about what I’m fighting for and begin my day with intention.

I want to give a special shoutout to the rulin’ “20. Dream Good.” I know this year, I’m going to give a lot of attention to my waking hours and how to be more productive, but I also need to remember to enjoy the little pleasures that come in the meanwhile. It’s my personal belief that everything you see while you’re awake is set dressing for your dreams. So if I keep on the colorful life path I’m on, I should have some great productions behind-the-scenes in my head.

New Year. New Dreams. I’m going to do my best to make them good ones.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Freddie and the Four Agreements

Freddie and the Four Agreements

Contributed by
Freddie Beckley

No, I didn’t start a band. I started a resolution: to practice the Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, year-round. Let me tell you about the Four Agreements. But first, let me tell you about my friend Tony.

Tony’s a pretty cool guy, and he’s pretty smart. He’s the friend I seek out when I need to talk about life, and how best to live it. He’s brimming with interesting, philosophical, mind-blowing concepts. “The unexamined life is not worth living” kind of stuff, ya know? The last time we hung out, we debated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for a few hours and walked away feeling enlightened. Everyone should have a friend like Tony.

Anyway, Tony posted about these Four Agreements on Facebook, and because I hold Tony in such high esteem, I checked ‘em out. Here’s how the first agreement goes:

1. Be Impeccable with Your Word

Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

I read this and immediately thought, “I want to do this. Every part of it.” For years I’ve tried to ‘underpromise and overdeliver’, but I always fail. Too often I extend myself past reasonable expectations, letting down the people who trust in me. Wouldn’t it be simpler, instead of rushing to fulfill every commitment, to be more discerning with promises in the first place? I don’t know when I started devaluing my promises, but it’s something I want to take back. And if, along the way, I can stop throwing myself under the bus and cut down those occasional bits of gossip, all the better. At first I planned only to pursue this first agreement, since I connected with it so strongly. The more I thought about it, though, the more incomplete that seemed. That’s when I decided to investigate the next three agreements:

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstanding, sadness, and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best

Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.

So there you have it, the Four Agreements. As far as resolutions go, it feels refreshing. In past years, I had giant, looming goals to complete before December 31. This year, by contrast, I just have to stay present. I’m committing to a way of living, not a finite achievement. If I fail in any given moment, it’s cool, I just have to pick myself back up and keep going. Is this easier said than done? Yes. But that’s what I’m looking forward to about the whole undertaking; to do what I say, to live proactively instead of reactively, and to keep it simple.

Thanks, Tony.

For more resources on personal and professional development,  you can follow Family Bridges on social media @familybridges.

Pine-Sol and Forest Bathing

Pine-Sol and Forest Bathing

Contributed by
Dr. Alicia La Hoz

To this day, when I smell Pine-Sol, I am taken back to the warm, welcoming feeling of being home. Coming back home from school to the fresh scent of Pine-Sol would alert me that my mother was busy cleaning that day.  The opened windows and cleanliness radiating from the tidy home made the impression that the house was not only clean but also that I had been purged of the dirt picked up from the day. The cleanliness of our home would somehow spread over me.

At first I couldn’t put my finger on it. This same clean feeling is what I have experienced during the monthly hikes my family and I have had. Our journey this year has been to take monthly hikes to State Parks. We have braved the rigid cold winter air, welcomed the spring breeze and basked in the warmth of summer. Recently, I ran into a video that nailed down the refreshing feeling felt after such hikes. It talked about forest bathing and how it is shown to boost energy, lower stress hormones, lower heart pressure, and reduce symptoms of depression.  Something about taking in the fresh oxygen and the oils emitted by the trees declutters the mind and refreshes the spirit.

With a heavy week full of to-do’s and decisions waiting to be made, the monthly hikes have become an opportunity to declutter my mind and body. Just like my mothers’ cleaning, the forest hikes are an opportunity to cleanse my spirit from the toxins picked up along life’s journey.   My family has learned that we could do more than what we thought we could, grown closer together, and even gotten quite a bit of exercise in. I even discovered how to just let go and have fun on a regular basis, which is important given my tendency to bury myself in my workload. Many goals lose their initial shine after the first month or two. This journey is just starting to reveal how glorious it is. So what are you waiting for? We are just at the midpoint of the year. Go ahead and take on the journey to explore your region’s parks and perserves; you will discover forests, trails and beaches that are within miles of your home and you will be pleasantly surprised at how good the experiences are for your mind, body and spirit.

Follow my journey with #Aliciasjourney and those of my colleagues with #journeys. For blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

#RichardsJourney: An Open Letter to my Elevator

#RichardsJourney: An Open Letter to my Elevator

Contributed by
Richard Lara

Dear Elevator,


Although we have had our highs and our lows, I feel like we are no longer on the same level. Every time we reach new heights you always complain about how much I push your buttons. You’re slow, lazy and never want to go out of your comfort zone. Your attitude just brought me down and because of that I have decided to pursue happiness elsewhere. It hasn’t taken long for me to start dating around.

I first met a Spanish gal named, Lera. Esca Lera. And let me tell you something, she is nothing like you. She motivates me to lift myself up and keeps me active. She’s quite strong and firm and always stands her ground. However, our relationship did not last long. Esca Lera would let anyone step on her and she never stood up against it. I tried helping her, but surprisingly, she was okay with getting stepped on. It was just a never-ending story with her. I just didn’t want the same to happen to me, so I left.

I continued the search for my other half. Days and nights passed as I sought after a partner. I ran and ran thinking my soulmate was miles away when in reality she was just around the corner. Although I only ran a 5K, it felt like I ran from LA NYC. And that’s when I met Giná.

I was lucky to find Giná Sio considering she’s Portuguese. I mean, what are the odds, right? I found that Giná is everything I was looking for. She’s social, active, self-motivated and always stays fit. She constantly encourages me to take on new challenges such as swimming, cycling, HIIT classes or yoga. I visit her about 3-5 days a week, and I always look forward to spending time with Giná Sio. She is my new addiction.

I’m sorry things could not work out between us, Elevator. But don’t beat yourself up because it wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t you, it was me.

Take care,




Follow my journey with #RichardsJourney and those of my colleagues with #Journeys2017

For blogs, tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make Lemonade

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make Lemonade

Contributed by
Omaira Gonzalez

Recently my husband and I went for a long walk at a nearby forest preserve.  This was a new location for us, and we enjoyed exploring the nature around us.  After an hour or so we noticed that we had been walking in circles around the same spot!  We chuckled a bit as we couldn’t believe we never noticed that we kept passing the same bench or sitting area.  We began to search for a path that would lead us back on track to our car.

Our travelling plans have been somewhat of the same experience.  Our goal was to travel more this year; however, we have come across some paths that have kept us going in circles.  I call these paths the “unexpected,” like when life throws you a curve ball. However, as the saying goes “when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” and we have learned to make the best of these moments and grow from them. My husband and I started to think of creative ways to continue exploring and traveling without spending too much money.  We started to visit the Forest Preserves in our area each weekend.  I started to observe that many families go on these trails,  going on walks and picnics. We were so encouraged by this that we started to take our family on our trail walks to enjoy some quality time together.  It is free, great exercise, and you can bring a picnic basket with some of your favorite foods.

Though my husband and I did not anticipate the setbacks that we came across this year, we did learn that there are so many other ways to appreciate each other, spend quality time together, and save money.  We did schedule a vacation trip to one of destinations on our bucket list and we allowed ourselves enough time to pay it off, all we need to take with us is spending money.

We know that when it rains it pours, and we have learned to keep an umbrella nearby and to not be discouraged. Difficult times have given us incentive to look outside of the box for opportunities to create valuable experiences.

You can stay up to date with my journey on social media with #OmairasJourney.

For more tips and ideas about life and relationships, follow us @familybridges.

Running on a Dreadmill

Running on a Dreadmill

Contributed by
Ashley Reed

I hate running on treadmills to point where I have nicknamed them dreadmills. I love running outside. The feeling of the sun and the occassional breeze, the sound of my sneakers crunching on gravel, the serene feeling of running underneath a canopy of leafy trees. The treadmill may say that I have run 3 miles, but I don’t feel like I have run 3 miles. Listening to a music playlist, alternating between staring at the tv and watching the people lift weights in front me, just isn’t exciting. What makes a run is the little things – trying a new route, seeing a bright red cardinal flutter in the trees, and the feeling that you are making a journey. For my long runs, it is cool to reflect on all of the passed milestones – trotting past the coffee shop, sprinting under the spooky bridge, reaching your turnaround point – it feels like my mind, body, and soul all go through a simple pilgrimage together. The reason I run isn’t to fit into my skinny jeans or keep my heart healthy (although those are perks), I run because it is a meditative activity that I enjoy. It is a release from stress and anxiety, and I have never regretted a single run that I have done.

It is March, and Chicagoland is blanketed in snow. Running while bundled in layers, pushing against the wind, sounds scary. So I sweat in the indoors, complain about the treadmills, and dream of warmer temperatures. The hardest part of running isn’t the physical exertion, it is the mental will to keep going (in my opinion). I keep myself going by envisioning crossing my finish lines (I have a half marathon and full marathon coming up) and knowing that warmer runs are just around the corner.

Until Next Time.

Follow my journey at #AshleysJourney #journeys.

Helping Men Create a Better Marriage

Helping Men Create a Better Marriage

Contributed by
Bill Ferrell

Men are dense. I know. I am one.

I want to create something or some things that will help men have better marriages. By nature, men have a desire to lead, an appetite for competition, and a passion to conquer. This often results in advancing in their careers, doing amazing feats of athleticism, and solving global problems. (Disclaimer: Results will vary based on each individual man).
But men often suck in marriage. That’s why I wanted to go on this journey.
At first I wanted to write a book. And since the goal is for men – it had to be short, to the point, and easy to read. And maybe include some bazookas and hand grenades.

I also wanted to write a curriculum that men could go through in six weeks (short, but not too short). This would involve personal interaction with material, including assignments that they would do with their wives. They would share with each other about the results to get support and encouragement. Also, out of fear of looking like a slacker – they would be more inclined to follow through. Or not. That’s how passive we can be.

And so, I am setting time aside every day to research and write. I plan to survey men and women along the way to get their feedback. The length of the book and curriculum may change. I may modify the format. I am not sure what the final project will exactly look like. It is a journey in a direction, but I am not sure what I’ll find along the way. Or what the destination will be.

I just know it will be an adventure!

Follow my journey at #BillsJourney #journeys.