The comfort zone is kind of like purgatory; things could be a lot worse, but they’re far from great. There are times, of course, when our lives are so tumultuous that predictability is a blessing. But when we get to a point that our jobs and lives are routine, it’s time to change.

Most of us have something we wish we were motivated to do: exercise, eat healthier, try a new hobby, start our own business, relax more or feel happier with our lives. Every so often we get fed up and commit (usually around Jan. 1), then the goal falls to the wayside and we settle back into our old habits.

So, what’s holding us back? People often say time. But many of our goals have little to do with time. We could be engaging in a hobby or exercising instead of watching TV. Or we could be relaxing with our families instead of working late.

Time may be part of it, but let’s face it: change means risk and risk can mean failure. We all know change is scary, so while purgatory may be comfortable, what keeps us there is fear. Someone once asked Thomas Edison how he felt about failing almost 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. Edison replied, “I didn’t fail. I just learned 10,000 ways not to make a light bulb.” There is always something to learn from every fall, and in the long-run, fear is more costly to you than failure.

Take a minute to think about one thing in your life you would like to change. Make sure you choose something you control, and start with something small. In other words, don’t choose to change your teenager or your spouse. You may want to change the relationship, and that’s fine. But you can’t change the person.

The three principles that follow will help guide you through the process of changing the one thing you have chosen. After using them once, try it with some other things in your life you’d like to change.

1) Set goals that are S.M.A.R.T. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable and Time sensitive. Instead of getting better at your job, decide how you are going to do it, by when and make sure that it’s feasible. You could say, for example, “I’m going to improve my product knowledge in the next month by reading about the product, calling the manufacturer when necessary and talking to people who have been in the job longer than I have.”

2) Use the Law of 1%. This tool is from the well-known business author Ken Blanchard. The idea is basically baby steps. Our goals may seem so big and far-reaching that you give up after a short time. Instead of deciding that you are going to lose 30 pounds and get into great shape all at once, focus on getting 1% closer to your goal every week. Bite-size chunks make change manageable.

3) Believe. Believe. Believe. The antidote to fear is faith. If you look at anyone who has achieved greatness in any sense of the word, you’ll find that they all had one thing in common: the belief that they could be great. Remind yourself that what you want is achievable at the beginning and end of every day. Talk to people who support you, and keep your distance from people who cause you to doubt yourself. Finally, don’t forget to reward yourself for your small achievements along the way.

Start with something today. Write it down. Set your goals and do it. Don’t worry too much about the mistakes or slip-ups. Every time you fall you are one step closer to getting what you want. If nothing else, you just bought a ticket out of purgatory.

Elisa Levy conducts seminars on conflict resolution and anger management. For information, call 305-296-5437 or visit http://www.elisalevy.com.