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Photos via Mila Buckley

Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.

Have you ever set a goal for yourself and thought, How am I ever going to get there?

I’ve done the same. A lot, actually.

Following my diagnosis with type 2 diabetes in 2016, I was terrified. Everything in my life had to change — from the way I ate and the amount of stress I carried to how much activity I engaged in during the day.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to get it all under control, but a friend of mine gave me some advice: Eat the elephant, one bite at a time.

It made me realize I had to quit stressing about the big stuff and look at the smaller picture.

Making changes, one small victory at a time

After my diagnosis with type 2 diabetes, I realized my commitments to things that weren’t about my health would have to change. All of my priorities would need to shift if I wanted to achieve this.

Learning how to reallocate my time and put my health first – like working 60 hours a week and still finding the time to exercise and cook my meals at home – was a change that didn’t happen immediately.

Ultimately, I’d have to rebuild healthy habits and start fresh if I were going to make any progress in my diabetes management.

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To begin this journey, I started small. I added exercise to my daily routine and practiced more self-care, something that’s always been hard for me. Those small goals were a part of a bigger plan to take care of my overall health and get my hemoglobin A1c down to a manageable range.

Even though I had those long-term goals in mind, I always looked out for the small victories along the way.

Turning long-term goals into something more obtainable

As time went on, what I set out to achieve no longer felt daunting. In fact, it felt manageable. This was down to always focusing on those small victories.

Little wins — like losing weight, being less out of breath, and managing my blood glucose numbers — helped me track my progress. I felt encouraged by those positive outcomes to keep going.

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When you’re trying to achieve something on a grand scale, it can hurt your self-esteem and feel discouraging if you’re constantly aiming for that high bar and missing it. But small victories give you the confidence to keep your eye on the goal.

Acknowledging and celebrating achievements is important

I learned throughout the process of caring for myself that small victories are always going to be a part of my diabetes management.

Before my diagnosis, I seldom took the time to care for myself. I thought everything else — my career, my social life, giving back to my community — were all more important than my health and well-being.

But that mindset needed to change. Not only did I need to focus on caring for myself, I needed to celebrate what I achieved along the way, too.

Since my diagnosis, there have been a number of milestones I’m proud of. The ones I’m most proud of include achieving a full month of in-range blood glucose readings, being able to run a mile in 12 minutes, and taking moments to just breathe when I know I need them.

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These little wins are, and continue to be, important. They’ve led me to much greater things. By focusing on the smaller wins, I feel confident about my diabetes management and my overall progress.

Tips for using short-term goals to manage your diabetes:

  • Create a plan for your goal. A goal without a plan is a wish, so plan out your big goals. Afterward, ask yourself what small achievements or victories you can aim for along the way.
  • Write down your wins and come back to them a few months later.Writing down your wins will help you see how far you’ve come since you first started tracking your goal and encourage you to keep going.
  • Make sure you remember to celebrate the small victories.Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the rush of everyday life, but you should always remember to celebrate those small achievements. Remember, congratulating yourself on the small wins along the way keeps you motivated and makes the big win feel good.

Mila Clarke Buckley is a type 2 diabetes advocate and digital storyteller who started her food blog, The Hangry Woman, after she struggled to find approachable resources to help her manage her chronic condition.