Visualize Steady ImprovementPeople who do big things -- build a company, write a book, lose 100 pounds, clear off their debts -- often do it without any big "Eureka!" moments. They just keep plugging ahead, marking progress day by day until the work is done.

Do you believe that you can tackle your big goals in life that way?

Pay close attention to how I phrased that question, because your belief about how well you can surmount your problems -- which some psychologists call "self-efficacy" -- might be even more important than your actual ability.

Visualize Steady Effort . . .

In a nutshell, a feeling of self-efficacy means that you feel like you're able to succeed at what you're trying. You feel competent.

Think about how much that means in your daily life. When you do something routine -- driving your car, doing the laundry -- you don't stress out about it because you know you can do it. The question of competence doesn't even come up, so you just go right ahead and drive to the store, launder the sheets, or whatever it is.

But now think about the things that stymie you, whether that means doing your own taxes, running a 10K, or preparing a dinner party for 20 people. You're stuck, you're nervous; you don't even know where to start. And a key part of those feelings is that you don't feel like you're competent to do it -- even if you are!

With feelings of competence, you're willing to take things step by step. Without feelings of competence, you may be reduced to hoping for a miracle -- which is a terrible way of dealing with life's challenges.

. . . And Steady Success

Do this: take one of your goals -- getting out of debt, say, or losing weight -- and imagine yourself reaching it one step at a time. Close your eyes and fast-forward yourself from today . . . to three months from now . . . six months . . . twelve months . . . done! See, hear, and taste how it feels to work a little more each day and get a little closer to the target each day.

Those milestones, be they ever so humble, are the sort of "mastery experiences" that help build self-efficacy. Think about it: you weren't born knowing how to do the laundry or drive the car to the store. But at some point, your mom showed you how to load the washer, and when you did it right she said, "Great -- that's all there is to it."

Maybe you had to ask her a question the next time about what to do with a particular garment (cold water? delicate cycle?), but pretty soon you were turning out one load of properly washed clothes after another. Those steady successes helped you believe that you were able to wash clothes.

Now, doing the laundry may seem pretty minor in comparison to building a business or paying your children's way through college. But the same principles apply. You want to see that you're getting somewhere. You want to know that you're not walking in circles. And you reach that point by enjoying those little moments of mastery along the way.

So, whether you want to run a 10K or host a dinner party or completely change your life, follow these four steps:

  1. Choose a tiny first part of the challenge that you know you can win.
  2. Visualize yourself achieving that win.
  3. Go ahead and act out that vision -- achieve the little win.
  4. Repeat.

Keep doing this, and you'll build your feelings of self-efficacy. You'll also build your skills for the task at hand, as well as your ability to visualize, but most importantly you'll reinforce your belief that it CAN be done.

Can you see yourself doing it?

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Tim Walker, Life Balance Guest Blogger for The Providers of CareOne Debt Relief Services Tim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro living in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Tim on Twitter; @Twalk or follow us by clicking here!