The expression "a journey starts with a single step" is never more appropriate than when we are trying to change our selves. In fact, taking small steps is the key to making truly large changes in life. Here is a system I've developed based on several psychological studies on how to effect change:
1. Think of a few big goals that you want to accomplish in life; write them down.
2. Now write down mini-goals that will help you reach your big goals over the next 5, 3, 2 and 1 years.
3. Put your list away. You can revisit it in 6 months.
4. Now think of three habits that will help you reach your goals. When adding habits, I find it helpful to shoot for 10-minute increments. Usually I end up exceeding them, but I don't have to. If one of your goals is to start exercising, don't start by running five miles per day. Instead, start with a 10-minute walk each day. If you want to write a novel, set a goal to write for 10 minutes per day. If you want to wake up at 5 a.m., begin by setting your alarm clock back just 10 minutes from the time you currently wake up. You want to set yourself up for raging success here, so don't get crazy.
5. Create a chart that lists the three small habits you want to add to your life. Now label days 1-30.
6. Each day, aim to "check off" all three habits.
7. At the end of 30 days, your three items will be a habit. Now pick three more and repeat the cycle.
8. At the end of 6 cycles, check in with your mini-goals and big goals. All of those small steps that you took mean that you are now well on your way to accomplishing them. Update your goals as necessary, then put them away for another six months.
9. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Based on the research I have read, there is simply no better way to consistently make progress towards your goals. Let me know if you have any additions or suggestions to this method!