We' ve all done it; whether it' s a New Year' s Resolution, or disliking the way you look in pictures, or even wanting to fit into a cute pair of pants again that have gotten a little too snug. We start off with a vengeance; vowing to change our life this time for good.
Then, about 6 weeks later (maybe sooner, maybe later) our stick-to-it-iveness begins to wane. What strategies can you use so that you maintain your motivation & make those behavior changes that you desire?
1) Set Goals
Goals are SO important in life in general. Goals allow you to be proactive in your life instead of re-active. When I think about life without goals, I think about the song Once In a Lifetime by the Talking Heads. The tips I' m outlining here can be applied to health, personal, business - whatever areas of your life you want to change.
Long Term Goals:
Start off with Long Term Goals. Where do you want to be in 5 years? If 5 years is too long, how about 1 year? A Wellness Vision or Vision Board will often work well with Long Term Goals because with Long Term Goals, you don' t necessarily know how you' re going to get there, and the results may seem overwhelming & not doable, but oftentimes they are.
Mid-Term Goals are about 3 months in duration & roughly set a path of where you want to be in 3 months. It may seem that even the 3 month goals are out of reach, but goals that don' t test your abilities aren' t as satisfying as accomplishing the unthinkable. With 3 month goals, a wellness vision works well as well as affirmations. Typically you want to create 4-6 Mid-Term Goals, and you want them to be positive in nature (i.e: avoid using words like won' t, don' t, avoid, never, limit, not, etc.).
Using the Mid-Term Goals as a guide, start with weekly goals that are just a baby step in the direction towards the Mid-Term Goal. Check in with yourself weekly. What were you able to accomplish? What got in your way? How can you do better next week?
When creating weekly or mid-term goals, create SMART Goals. SMART is an acronym for the anatomy of a goal. If one attribute is missing, the goal has the opportunity to fail you.
Specific - We' ve all done it with New Year' s Resolutions, "This year I' m going to be healthier!" or "I' m going to get fit." What does that mean? How are you going to be healthier? or fit? "I' m going to get fit" doesn' t work because "fit" is a matter of perspective. Be specific. When we use these terms, we usually have some idea of what "fit" or "healthy" means to us. Define it.
Measurable - Instead of saying "I' m going to lose weight", be specific. Is it alright if you lose muscle? Probably not. What you want to say is that you' re going to lose fat, but how much? A better option would be "I' m going to lose 10 lbs of fat", or as far as fitness goes, "I' ll be able to do 25 push-ups without stopping." We can measure body fat & push-ups - we can' t measure an absolute "fit" or "healthy".
Actionable - How is the goal going to happen? Without action, goals are just dreams. Instead of "I' m going to be healthier" (which is vague), how about "I will eat 1 serving of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables daily."
Realistic - This is actually where the next tip comes in - making small changes. What' s realistic? If I' m a certified couch-potato, running a 5k next week probably isn' t a realistic goal, but walking 2 times for 20 minutes each might be. It' s all a matter of what you think you can accomplish. Again, if you' re eating all of your meals at restaurants, deciding to prepare all of your meals at home might be a stretch, but starting out with preparing 2 meals at home seems doable.
Time-Based - Goals need to be time-based, otherwise they' re dreams too! So when is it going to happen? by setting weekly goals, you' re specifying that it is going to happen by the end of the week; likewise for your mid-term goals. So instead of "I will eat 1 serving of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables," how about "This week I will eat 1 serving of fruit and 2 servings of vegetables daily."
2) Make Small Changes
Decide what you' re ready to do. You may be ready to start moving, but not just ready to give smoking. That' s okay. Do what you' re ready to do. Instead of giving up soda all together, start with substituting a glass of water for every 3rd soda, or make your soda a reward system. You can have one only after you' ve drank 2 glasses of water.
Next week progress - always try to do better.
Use these terms:
To eat healthier and achieve a more reasonable weight I will:
Add when Substitute for Limit to
To increase my structured activity I will:
minutes times per week
** Remember that you will have lapses. NO ONE is perfect. No one has the perfect diet or exercise regimen. The key here is to ditch all-or-nothing thinking. It doesn' t serve you. If you mess up & miss a workout, or eat a treat that you didn' t budget for, it' s okay. Move on. Don' t use it as an excuse to devour everything else in sight. That certainly won' t help you get closer to your goals or help your self-esteem.
3) Never Forget the "Why"
I think that this point may be the most important. We all have reasons for wanting to change. I' ve heard them all; from wanting to look good in a bikini to not wanting to go on medication to wanting to be a better parent to his/her kids. What I' ve learned is that no reason is too trivial - as long as it' s an important reason to the person who is making the change.
If my doctor tells me that I should lose 10 lbs, I will have a completely different compliance with my program than if I want to lose 10 lbs because I' m participating in a contest among friends. It doesn' t matter what the reasons behind your behavior change; as long as you own the reason, you' ll be successful.
Some successful strategies to not forget why you' re doing this are:
Write a letter to yourself explaining why you' re wanting to make the change. Outline what you hope to achieve on the other end with the changes that you' re implementing. Make it an emotional letter - write it from the heart. When you' re lacking confidence or will-power, pull out the letter & read it.
If the reason is your kids, or a piece of clothing, put a picture of it in a place that will remind you on a constant basis of why you' re making these changes.
I saw an extremely powerful example of using medication as a reminder of the "why" on the Biggest Loser TV Show. After one of the contestants had dropped X amount of weight, the doctor showed him a really large glass jar (like one that you see filled with pickles on the counter of a deli) 1/2 filled with pills. By losing the amount weight that this contestant had lost, he would not have to take the pills that were inside the jar - which was his medication for the next 6 months! Also, consider the amount of money that prescriptions cost within that time period. You could use that as a good reward!
These are just some ideas to keep the originating reason for making changes last. Also, remember that oftentimes, the reason that we start a behavior can change into a different reason that we maintain a behavior. I may have started exercising to look good, but now I know that I feel better when I do it - mentally, emotionally & physically.