As I said in my initial post, this year has seen me become what feels like a completely different person than I was when it began. I understand wanting to make changes within your own life and having no idea where to start. What’s worse is getting started, making great changes, and then falling back into old habits. I am here to help, because after so many years of starting and stopping and rinsing and repeating, I’ve found a formula for lasting changes that works for me and if it works for me, it can work for literally anyone.
- Define why you want to change and write it down. (Honestly, write it all down. Your why, your smaller goals-ALL of it.) I know what it’s like to have a goal, have the means to achieve it, only to get discouraged and quit when there is an unexpected bump in the road. I am writing this as a recovering lifelong quitter. It’s so easy to justify giving up when things get hard. Life in general is hard; there are always going to be road blocks you can’t anticipate and really could I please catch a break because I am really trying here?
I get it. I have lived it. When you forget WHY you started, you lose focus. Writing down your why and revisiting it when things get tough will help you to maintain perspective on where you’re gong.
- Have a clear end-game. What, exactly, is it that you want to accomplish? I had a very long list of things I wanted to change. One thing I wanted was to feel better about myself overall, but that’s a little too general a goal. Specifically, I wanted to stop being so hard on myself and start having a kinder inner dialogue. I wanted to lose weight, but ultimately I wanted to revamp the way I ate and to make exercise a priority. It’s important to hone in on exactly what it is you want to accomplish instead of dealing in generalities.
- Brainstorm ways to get there. You have a goal! Wonderful! Now how do you make it a reality? The biggest reason I haven’t achieved my goals in the past (aka why I quit) is because I didn’t have a clear path to get there. A goal without a plan is useless. Let’s say your goal is to save more money. A budget is a good idea, as is limiting your pricy coffee drinks or eating out for lunch every day. If your goal is to lose weight or simply get in better shape, joining a gym or finding a workout buddy are good places to start. At this point you don’t have to know every single step; you just want an idea of your options so you can start implementing them.
- Set small goals along the way. Big goals can be overwhelming! The best way to avoid goal anxiety is to set small, achievable goals that will eventually lead to your larger goal. From my earlier example of saving money, set a goal of saving $100 each week or month. If your goal is to get into better shape, set an initial goal of 10,000 steps every day or working out three to four days a week. Small things you can reasonably accomplish in the short-term will help keep you on track and give you a good excuse to celebrate along the way.
- Adapt a personal mantra. Y’all, this is so NOT me. Personal mantras are a little too hokey and precious for me, but my husband swears by them. It pains me to say he’s right. I mentioned that one of my initial goals was to have a kinder inner dialogue; that’s a fine goal, but I’d become incredibly hard on myself (“I’m fat, I’m a quitter, I’m a failure”). That wasn’t going to change just because I wanted it to. I stopped saying all the aforementioned terrible things about myself and instead started focusing on the positive things. “My body was strong enough to carry two healthy children. I finish what I start. I am going to achieve my goals.” It wasn’t overnight, but eventually something shifted and I started believing the new things I was saying about myself.
There you have it, folks, my (mostly) foolproof guide to making positive and lasting changes. These steps don’t explicitly account for life and the inevitable hiccups that will arise. Consider this a bonus step: give yourself a break. You can’t be perfect. Unexpected expenses will arise, and you’ll have to dip into your savings. You’ll splurge on chips and salsa weekend. There will be weeks when working out every day is impossible. Perfection is unattainable. What you can be, what is a worthy and achievable alternative is better. Demand better from yourself.
I want to know: What lasting changes do you want to make?