The first step.

The first step in making a change is often the most difficult to take. Here are my four strategies for taking a first step that will lead you on the path to success. 

In the seven years I've practiced nutrition, I've yet to meet a single person who doesn't want to be healthy. I've met many people who say they don't care about their health, or whose habits and ambivalence might imply a lack of caring. But when we talk about the future, it's clear they want happiness, energy and vitality. They have life goals, places and things they want to see and do. They want to see their children and grandchildren through important milestones. In other words, they want to be healthy.

What they don't want, however, is to change. Why would anyone want change? It's hard. Change makes you vulnerable and forces you out of your comfort zone. With change, there is an implicit risk of failure. It's much easier to stick with the status quo.

Unfortunately, to achieve wellness, most people need to make changes, and pretty major ones at that. Weather it's learning to cook, starting to exercise or making time for meditation, change is absolutely necessary. Yeah, you can't just continue on living the same way and expect a long, healthy and fulfilled life. Sucks, huh?

The good news is that you don't have to commit to a complete lifestyle overhaul to achieve health. All you have to do it commit to taking one step in the right direction! Once you take that step without falling, with your new confidence, you'll likely take another, and another, then another until your life is unrecognizable from where you started.

That first baby step may seem small and insignificant in the grand scheme of things, but really, it isn't so little. The first change, no matter how small, is always the hardest. That's why so many people are stuck in the same patterns.

The key to long term success is setting a challenging, yet achievable first goal. An unachievable goal sets you up for failure, for lack of a better word. That feeling of failure chips away at self confidence and the less confident you feel, the less likely you are to try again. Conversely, if you set a goal that's too easy, you won't gain any confidence in achieving it, so you'll be less likely to take another step.

How do you decide on the right goal to start with? Think of an area you want to change, then a more specific goal. Once you have a goal in mind, ask yourself the following questions. If you answer no to any of the questions below, pick another goal and try again.

1. Can you start working on your goal today? The longer you wait before starting, the less likely you'll take that first step. If your goal requires training, purchasing equipment or something you don't have at your immediate disposal, then it's not a good place to start. The more barriers, the less likely you are to take that step.

2. Can you stick to your goal for a month? It takes about a month of regular repetition to create a habit.

3. Will it achieve tangible results? Cutting back from four diet sodas a day to three is a good start, but it's unlikely to produce any noticeable difference in your health or how you feel. If you're not getting results, why would you continue on?

4. Is the change meaningful to you? Why is this goal important to you? If you're doing it "just because," the smallest challenge will be enough to throw you off. For example, I'd like to run a marathon just to say I ran a marathon. It's pretty safe to say I will never ever run a marathon.

Once you've picked a goal, make sure you set yourself up for success. Commit to it on paper. Make yourself accountable by telling others or picking a place to track your goal for self accountability. Set yourself reminders, because it's easy to forget in the hustle and bustle that is life. Don't be so confident that you forget to consider possible obstacles. Anticipate challenges and plan for them. Give yourself the support you need to succeed!

Have you ever set a small goal that initiated a major life change? Please tell in the comments below!