The Ultimate Guide to Making Life Changes That Last

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Do you eat more junk food than you’d like to?

Wish you exercised more? Meditated?

Do you want to lose weight or drop your cholesterol numbers?

Do you have a change you want to make and can’t get over the hump to make it stick?

Have you not even tried to make the change because you’re scared you’ll fail?

You’re not alone.

Most people know behaviors and habits they wish to change but find it challenging to do so.

Unfortunately, not one strategy works for everyone (that would be too easy), but below is one way to help make sustainable change. It will help you create a plan of action that fits your goals, preferences, and lifestyle.

What do you want?

Do you have an image of what you want your life to look like, or do you have a specific goal in mind?

What type of actions can you take to get to where you want to be? What behavior changes can you make?

When making your goal, make it what you WANT, not what you don’t want. If you’re cutting out fast food, what will you replace it with? Home-cooked meals?

Make it what you’re adding, not what you’re restricting or taking away.

Make your goal behavior-based, not outcome based.

If you want to win the marathon, that’s great, but even if you train every day, there might be someone who’s faster. You can’t guarantee you’ll win. But, if you make it a behavior-based goal, such as training every day for one hour, that’s a goal you have more control over.

Try to stick with 3-5 behavior goals a week. You can think of them as mini goals to work towards your main goal. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself!

Be SMARTER

Make your goals SMARTER – specific, measurable, realistic, time-bound, evaluate, and revise.

Set specific goals. If you want to eat healthier, what does that look like? Eating 2 cups of fruit per day? Cooking 3 times a week? Make it specific.

Make it measurable. You can measure by adding 2 cups of fruit. 1 cup in the morning, 1 cup in the afternoon.

Make it realistic. If you’re cooking once a week now, then having a goal to cook 7 days a week might be unrealistic to start. Make it small and achievable.

If your goal involves exercise, select activities you look forward to and enjoy, not ones that will be a chore. Will the activity hold your interest? Can you fit it into your schedule? Does it cost money, and can you afford it?

Make it time-bound. Sticking with eating healthier… by when? Cooking 3 times this next week has a time to it. Within the next week.

Evaluate. If your goal wasn’t achieved, what was the challenge? If it was achieved, what made you successful?

Keep a record of daily notes and results to remind yourself of your ongoing commitment, which can help give a sense of accomplishment. This also helps identify triggers and problems.

Revise. If cooking 3 times a week is too much, revise your goal to twice a week, or think of a different way to achieve it, such as a meal delivery service.

If you notice you’ve lost commitment, list your negative thoughts and behaviors that cause you to not make this a priority or to lose interest. Create a strategy to reduce these and make changes to your plan to help renew your commitment.

It’s Not Trial and Failure. It’s Trial and Correction.

Expect fluctuation and lapses, but don’t let them discourage you or feel guilty.

When you set this goal, how does it make you feel? Be curious and mindful. Notice what comes up for you.

Write it down!

Decide why you’re doing this. Is it to be healthier? Feel better? Lose weight? If it’s to lose weight, why? For health, to look better naked, have more confidence?

Are there any barriers or obstacles you foresee in trying to achieve your goal?

Familiarity, habits, running on autopilot?

When driving home from work, do you pass by Mcdonald’s and automatically go to it? McDonald’s is standardized to cue eating routines. If driving by McDonald’s is your trigger to go to the drive-thru, can you take a different route?

Are there strengths that you have to help you achieve this goal?

Pay attention to who you are and insert routines that take advantage of your strengths, tendencies, and aptitudes.

Choose strategies that enhance your chance for success. Increasing or decreasing convenience, like taking a different route home, so you don’t pass by that McDonald’s.

Have systems of accountability. How are you going to hold yourself accountable?

Plan safeguards and detect rationalizations you tell yourself. Make a plan or strategy for difficult circumstances to keep up with your program, such as vacations or holidays.

Have positive reinforcement. Create primary and possibly even secondary reinforcers.

Have incentives! Sticker charts work for many adults too. Give it a try!

Putting It Into Action

Figure out what you want to change and what you want to maintain.

Decide on a few ways of how to get to where you want to be or to maintain what’s already going well.

Create your goal to accomplish this week and make it SMARTER. Think of it as an experiment rather than a goal if that helps take some pressure off.

Focus on the positive and your improvements. Visualize what it will be like when you reach your goal.

Tell yourself, “I am committed,” “I am persistent, “My health (or my family’s health) is important to me.”

An overused but accurate quote by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

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