How do I make a change stick?
The new year has rolled in and I think that most people tend to make New Year's resolutions. I am always curious to how long those last. Two years ago, I boycotted the trend and refused to make any new resolutions. I know that all around me, people were saying they were going to eat more healthy foods. They were going to get physically active. Or a big one on the list was I am going to lose weight.
It was interesting to note that most of the people who jumped on the bandwagon of change had stopped trying to achieve their goals in about two to three weeks.
Which makes me wonder, what is a way to make a change stick longer than two or three weeks.
I have some thoughts on that.
First, know that we as people don't like change. We like to float along in the same way, day after day, and week after week. Change is uncomfortable. It could be likened to being in a situation that is difficult or distressing. We don't normally go looking for situations that give us those feelings.
However, in order to make a change stick, it is necessary to have some of that uncomfortable feeling. We have to get out of the rut of what is the 'norm.'
But what can make it tolerable or even desirable so that we persist with the change attitude.
Well to make change stick, I have to know the why of I am changing. It is not enough to exercise or lose weight, or any other goal oriented activity without knowing the why or what the motivation is.
What is it that you want to get out of this change or goal? How will it benefit you? Or if there is no benefit, guess what. You will probably not stick with the change for long. There is nothing driving or motivating you to be different. If you don't have this driver or motivation, you are going to give up on the change very easily and move back to the comfortable state of being.
So take the following goals as an example: I am going to work to lose weight so I can take less medicine. Or I am going to lose weight because I want to fit into a smaller size clothes. I want to lose weight because I know I will be able to move around better. I want to lose weight because I want to feel less tired and heavy.
So whatever the reason, know the why. What is going to keep you in the change mode. What is going to keep you focused until you obtain your goal.
Third, and very important, write your change plan down. Put it on an index card and tape it to the mirror where you comb your hair and brush your teeth every day. It is important that You remember what the plan is every day in order to stick with it.
If you don't see your goal every day, you will forget what you have decided to work on.
There are other ways to keep your goal on your mind.
A friend who has decided to lose weight has taped a picture of herself on the refrigerator of when she was the lower weight she is aiming to be to remind herself every day that this is the plan. That is one way to keep things fresh and remember the goal of weight loss. She can visualize what her body will look like when she loses her weight.
Another person I know writes in a journal about the progress that she is, or isn't making on her goal. It is a way to keep track of progress and possibly the need to revise the change goal.
Fourth, write it down in a SMART fashion. This way of writing your goal will allow you to break the change in small steps and allow you to see if you have accomplished your goal.
The S in SMART stands for be specific. Instead of writing a goal that is I will eat healthy, to be specific with this change goal it is better to write I will eat a vegetable serving every day for dinner. This telling you exactly what you have to do to make your diet more healthy. Or you may write that you will eat a serving of fruit for lunch and dinner.
M in SMART stands for measurable. What this means is that your goal will list a time, a distance, a number of something that can be measured. For example, in the goal above, I will eat a vegetable every day at dinner. The portion of the goal that is measurable is the every day at dinner. A person can go back over their food record and see they ate a vegetable 6 days of the 7 days.
A in SMART stands for the goal should be attainable. You may need to change your environment to be able to attain or achieve the change. For instance, if you have junk food in the house and this is a temptation that will cause you to eat the food, you may need to change your environment. If you need support for the change, and your spouse is not very encouraging in your attempts to lose weight, you may need to find a source for support and encouragement. Fixing the environment around you can help with the odds of being successful for change.
The R in SMART stands for realistic. It is important to make your goal small enough that it can be obtained, while still making you stretch some.
So if you are wanting to lose 100 lbs, break this down into how many lbs you will aim for in one month. What small steps do you need to take to get to this small change? I will aim to lose 6 lbs in the first month. To achieve this weight loss, I will walk 20 minutes, 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
T stands for tied to a deadline or timely. What that means when are you going to check to see if your change is working? Is it one week or one month? This will help you to know do you need to rewrite the change goal, or maybe focus on something else.
It is important to know that weight loss is a by-product of other actions. It comes from the change of making lower calorie food choices, by changing the environment so there is fewer temptations or you are eating fewer calories. Weight loss is a by-product from when a person is more active.
So when you are writing your change goal, you want better control of blood sugars or you want weight loss, think about what are the change steps you need to make to make those things happen. They are the result of goals.
Fifth, and finally, know that there may be times when you don't do so well at keeping with the change you have chosen. Give yourself some slack and know that this is normal.
At this point, think about what is important to you. Are you still motivated by X, Y, Z to restart the goal? Do you need to rewrite or rephrase your goal? Do you need support for your goal? Do you need to change your environment to get back on track?
Not succeeding with a goal doesn't mean you have failed. It means you have learned one way that this doesn't work and it is time to try another way.
It means getting back with figuring out what is important to you with your weight, or your diabetes, or your heart health to rewrite, re-motivate, restart.
If you need help setting your change goals, or making your change stick, I would be happy to help you with this. My scheduling page is http://www.nutritionandhealthworks.com/schedule-your-appointment-1
Wishing you great success in the new year.