How to Make Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle habits can be some of the hardest things to change. Odds are, you’ve been there. I know I have. Honestly, more times than I’d like to admit and I never really found success.

Well… not until I realized I was going about it all wrong. What finally worked?? The trick to changing habits is in the details. First, let’s set the scene.

Has this ever been you? You’ve decided you didn’t like something that is going on in your life. Be it anxiety, a bad habit or maybe not enough of something happening.

So, you decide you want to make a change. GREAT! So, you decided to go cold turkey or you put the change into effect FULL FORCE… and then you got burnt out. Been there. Done that.

Why Lifestyle Changes Fail 

Changes like these require a certain amount of planning and preparation.  When you don’t have these in place, the attempt fails.  This is one reason why New Year’s resolutions don’t always stick.  Some also become demotivated for various reasons but, when motivation is low, the plan and preparation will help get a person through. 

If you have a goal, then that’s a good start.  You’re one step closer to SUCCESS.  

Understanding why goals aren’t reached is an excellent way to ensure you reach yours.  Do you ever go to the grocery store thinking you can wing it without a list?  Only to return again in the days following to get items you’ve forgotten?  Why do you do this?  Because you weren’t adequately prepared

There it is.  The cold, hard TRUTH.  

Maybe you were too busy to start a list or you just plain needed some rest.  I get it!  How much can one person do anyways?!  Either way, the planning didn’t get done and you didn’t make only one trip to the store.  It happened.  

So, do you download an app for making lists?  Put a pen and notepad next to the fridge?  That depends on your priority level for changing the outcome in the future.  It’s exactly the same with any other goal.

Where to Start When Making Lifestyle Changes

First thing is first.  You need to know what is keeping you from making the change and why.  

Maybe your goal is to stop smoking. So, you decide to quit immediately and all at once.  If you’re like most people this wouldn’t work.  Typically, people smoke for a reason. To get certain perceived benefits from it.  Identifying these benefits are key to being able to stop. By identifying them you can eliminate them. 

Maybe you want to eat healthier meals but what is stopping you from doing it in the first place?  Are you too busy during the week to cook a healthy meal?  These are the things you need to figure out. Then, the solution should revolve around that and not just a goal to make healthy meals.   

Side Notes:  Cooking meat or slicing veggies on days off  is a great way to meal prep and can significantly reduce cooking times.  Putting healthy snacks in containers ahead of time makes it easy to get out the door in the morning so you don’t have to go to the office vending machine.

Bring the Barriers to Life… and Then Get Rid of Them

Whatever you want to change, whatever your goal is… you’re going to need to identify the reasons why you’re not doing it already if you want to be successful.  These reasons often have things attached to them too like your emotions, motivations, fears, etc.  You may have to take a deep look into why these barriers exist and confront them.

Then, what better way to acknowledge them than to write them down?  This allows you to review them AGAIN and AGAIN and take more notes about them, if needed.  The more you are able to revisit and think about these reasons and their attachments the more likely you’re going to be to CONQUER them. 

What’s that saying?  To be prepared is half the victory.  How victorious you’ll be when you finally make the change.  Break the habit.  Do right by yourself.  It’ll feel so good!

Remember, this may take a week or two or more and that’s OK.  The more you know about yourself the better.  Maybe you’re not a note taker, but you prefer to journal, instead.  Cool, whatever works for you.  

Prioritizing Your Goals

If something isn’t a priority, how likely are you to do it?  Prioritizing something means actively putting it in front of other things and choosing to do it first.  If it’s not a priority, but you still have the desire, you’re no further than identifying your goals.

Example Behaviors of Prioritizing:

  • Getting up earlier to workout 
  • Putting down your phone to spend more time with your kids
  • Meal prepping on your day off instead of watching a 30 minute show

All of these include a priority and a sacrifice.  Notice each of the above sacrifices are temporary gratifications that finish quickly?   By choosing the sacrifice, you’ve chosen something that doesn’t move you towards your goal and is over fast.  By choosing the priority, you’re putting yourself one step closer to reaching that goal.

You could get creative, too. Sometimes, you may not be able to chose both the priority and sacrifice but there ARE times you could like meal prepping while watching a show.

Small Steps Make Big Goals Achievable

So, we’ve covered identifying your goal, understanding your barriers and prioritizing.  Now, we’re onto the juicy stuff.  Is it time to go for the Gold?  

Well, yes.  Kind of.  Little by little and that’s the key.  

Say, you have always wanted to hike Half Dome above Yosemite Valley but you are winded when you climb a flight of stairs.  Half Dome raises 4800 feet in elevation and is around 14-16 miles round trip.  You’re probably going to be unsuccessful if you just pack up and go! 

If you’re trying to become healthier by losing weight, small steps means focusing on a fraction of the total weight loss at a time. Focusing on the total weight means delaying the gratification you desire.

You’d need to start a plan to gradually build your endurance.  Smaller steps will get you there.

Reasons why Small Steps Work

  • The easier the accomplishments, the likelihood of continuing is much higher, especially if motivation is low.
  • Smaller changes are more likely to fit into your routine when you’re sick, busy, etc.
  • When you’re focusing on a smaller step, you can reach it faster and feel good about it sooner.

Basically, you build the stairway as you’re going, but you have the plan for the stairway at the beginning.  That last step, to the highest level, isn’t near as intimidating as it was when you were at the bottom.

Don’t forget to celebrate every time you’ve reached a new step.  Positive reinforcement from yourself or others is a GREAT encouragement. Then you begin to see yourself in a more positive light. 

Tips & Tricks to Sticking With It

Daily commitment will get you the most benefit even if you mess up from time to time.  Remember, you’re NOT perfect.  In fact, making a mistake here and there can be a blessing because it allows you to identify an issue you may not have been aware of.

If you are comfortable, tell friends and family what you’re working towards and how you’re doing it.  This type of accountability could help push you along when you want to stop.  Maybe someone decides they want the same goal and will walk it with you.  Though, for some, the pressure of people knowing can be too much.  If that’s you, you may need to be creative and figure out how to stay accountable.

Hiring a professional to help you reach your goal can be very beneficial.  Whatever your goal, there is most likely a coach/specialist/counselor to help you reach it.  They also know the most effective ways to get to your goal so if you’re unsure of what to do, they can offer help.

If you’re thinking of making any changes to your lifestyle, go easy on yourself and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.  You know you best and you know what will stick.  

You’re doing this for a good reason, so keep pushing even when you don’t want to.  You ARE worth it.  

Take Care and Best Wishes!

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