Once we get about midway into January, those New Year’s resolutions are so last year! Whether you wanted to eat more healthfully, get more exercise, read more books (and watch less TV/phone time), or practice more patience, it’s easy to slide back into old habits. Try these tips for turning hopes into real life, permanent change.
[One surefire method to guarantee success is to prepare! Start here with our curated selection of healthy, nutritious snacks.]
You’ll notice that nowhere on this list is the old adage: it takes “X” days to cement in a new habit. This has been disproven because everyone is different and every goal has its own timeline. Of course, we know it takes some time to change your habits but a set timeframe only leads you to give up if you haven’t achieved your goal by the end date. You have to approach this on your own schedule with kindness for the roadblocks that will affect you (and only you). Even if you have to completely start over, or if you’ve set this goal before, there is value in trying! Give yourself room and patience!
Ten Tips for Long-Lasting Change.
- Remember WHY you wanted to change. Making a real change has to be grounded in the why. Yes, we all know “we should eat better” but how and why would a change like that matter in your life? It’s more than just checking off another “should” on your list – true change of habit will succeed if you know your motivation behind it.
- Be realistic in what you want to change (and how). Our lives are so full, some things we know need changing but they just can’t happen right now. For instance, many of us say we want more sleep but kids, work, and life make that difficult. Every change you want to make has to exist within the bigger ecosystem of your life. Adapt your goal to fit in and you’ll have a much better chance at success.
- Make a visual tracker of your goal. You know how fundraisers make that “big thermometer of giving” and they color in the lines as the fund grows? Do that for yourself! Get creative – maybe it’s a construction paper chain that you add to with each achievement, maybe it’s a big wall poster you color in, maybe it’s a bullet journal type graph. Whatever works for you to stay motivated!
- Break it down into small goals. Looking at a big goal is intimidating and overwhelming! Keep that big, long-term goal but break it down into manageable chunks. For example: if you want to eat healthier, what does that look like THIS week? Is it adding two servings of veggies or skipping that afternoon sweet? Pick a specific goal, with a short-term deadline and only work on that. Then keep adding more small goals that build towards the big habit change.
- Plan out your week, month, year. Just like the above, set up your tracking to meet short, middle, and long goals. Some folks have a specific event (i.e., saving money to buy a new house) that they’re working towards. If your goal is a long way off, how does it break down in a way you can track and see results. Be creative here, too, and give yourself rewards along the way even if you have a big reward planned at the end.
- Visualize the end result and write it down. Read this every day! Some people even print it out and post it somewhere conspicuous like the bathroom mirror. Think, too, of the opposite effect: what will be the result be if you don’t make this change. Remind yourself of that when the going gets tough.
- Tell others your plan so you have accountability and/or a partner to support you. Choose someone who will hold you to your goal but also encourage you along the way. Maybe you’re both working on the same general goal together. This works great for exercise and diet as you’ll always have someone who’s going through the same experience and can help you through bumps in the road.
- Celebrate success. Make a big deal out of reaching each small milestone you've set and consciously congratulate yourself when you do it. And, if you don’t make the goal, just readjust and forgive yourself for missing it. Don’t give up.
- Think of the example you’re setting. Your kids, friends, colleagues are watching and you can show them that small change leads to big things. You can be a mentor and a leader and will help change the world through your change.
- Go public. For some, public accountability is a motivator. If this is you, take your plan to social media or sign up for a group connected to your goal. Some even offer stepped incentives, partner matching, or accountability coaches. It all depends on your own personal style.