How to Create Lasting Change
Transformation requires change both in thoughts and in actions. And change is difficult to initiate and often even more difficult to sustain. The following are some tips and suggestions for creating lasting change in any area of your life:
- Make your goals specific, actionable and measurable. For example, saying. “I want to be happier,” is vague and impossible to measure. If your goal is be happier, begin by breaking that down into smaller pieces. Perhaps part of being happy for you is to spend social time with friends, specifically having at least two hours a week of adult friend contact. That is now something you can recognize and word towards.
- Focus on your most important goals. A shotgun approach rarely works; select one to three areas to focus on at a time. Once a goal is attained or becomes obsolete, replace it with a new intention.
- Visualize success. What will you feel like when you have attained your goal? Look like? See yourself reaching your intentions and paint every detail in your mind.
- Be realistic. If you hate fish, don’t set a goal of eating salmon at least once a week. If you are afraid of public speaking, don’t make your first goal a TEDtalk. Start where you are and use what you have.
- Write your goals down. Writing down your goals helps in two ways: First, it helps you clarify exactly what you are working towards. Secondly, if you post your goals in a prominent location, it serves as a reminder of what you want to achieve.
- Track your progress. When progress is incremental, it can be difficult to gain perspective on how far you have come. And, when you don’t have a sense of the bigger picture, small setbacks can be very discouraging. Find a way to record your progress. This can be as simple as re-reading earlier journal entries to see how your perspective has changed or it can take the form of measureable data. The “how” isn’t important; the acknowledgement of overall progress is.
- Tell somebody. Most people feel more accountable when others know of their intentions. If you are the only aware of your goal to run a 5K in eight weeks, it’s pretty easy to skip your training runs and retire to the sofa. If, however, your friends and family know of your goal, you’ll be more encouraged to make sure you don’t end up backing out of the race. If you don’t want to involve your social group in your goals, you can start an anonymous blog or Twitter account. Even if you have few readers, just the act of making your intentions public creates accountability.
- Join a group. When you’re surround by like-minded people that are trying to achieve a similar change, it makes it easier to make those changes and make them stick.
- Utilize technology. Put goals and plans on your calendar. Set reminders and alerts. Change your home screen to a reminder of your goals. Download an app that helps you implement or track your goals. It’s easy to neglect your own well-being while you’re taking care of others. Make sure you clamor for own attention too.
- Tie new habits with established ones. If you already brush your teeth each day and you want to start a daily meditation practice, make a habit of meditating every day after you brush your teeth. It’s easier to start something new when it’s paired with something familiar.
- Pair a desired action with something desirable. Want to go to the gym every morning? Splurge on your favorite shower gel and keep it in your gym bag to be used after that early workout. Need an incentive to journal every week? Head to your favorite coffee shop to get your writing done. No journaling, no coffee shop.
- Create a challenge. If you are competitive by nature and you enjoy making a game out of things, join a challenge group or create your own contest. One way to do this is through a streak where you have to complete a certain activity for a specified amount of time for a certain number of consecutive days. For example, you may challenge yourself to walk at least a mile every day for a month. You can also ramp up the challenge – a mile a day at the beginning that slowly increases to three miles a day at the end. If you miss a day, the challenge starts over. That’s a great incentive to stick with it!