How to make changes that last

Changing anything about our behavior is hard. Really hard. Even something simple like switching up where we put our car keys can be rough. So it makes sense that making big changes, like:

  • How we spend and save our money
  • How we discipline our children
  • How we manage stress and worry
  • How we treat our bodies

…can feel like monumental tasks.

Luckily, there’s been a lot of research on making changes that last. Here’s what works:

  • Start small, really small. To my patients, I recommend that the first couple steps toward change be remarkably small. Here’s why: If we set a large goal (for example: “Never eat sweets again”), we will inevitably fail, feel awful about ourselves, throw in the towel, and sit down to a smorgasbord of sweets (to keep the totally non-personal example going). Tiny goals (“I’m going to go one day without dessert this weekend”) are better because we set ourselves up for success. Success leads to confidence in our ability to change, which leads to more challenging goals, which leads to more success, and so on.
  • Make personally-meaningful goals. We can’t all care about everything. It’s not realistic to expect ourselves to be: never-cheater eaters, marathon runners, ultra-savers, perfect parents, top-notch employees, garden club honorees, award-winning volunteers, Pinterest stars…you get the picture. Instead of trying to be everything everyone else tells you that you should be, focus on being what you want to be. Not only will your goals be more meaningful, you will be more likely to meet them.
  • Hold yourself accountable. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty awesome at talking myself out of doing things. As in, “I’m so busy today, I really deserve a day off from exercise.” I’m going to guess that most people are pretty good at it, too. A great strategy for combating this is to hold yourself accountable for the changes you want to make. In fact, just writing your goals down can have a significant impact on success. Want even more accountability? Try writing your daily goals on the family calendar, share your goals with a friend, or invite some co-workers who have similar goals to share the journey with you.