Tips For Developing Positive Long-Term Lifestyle Changes
If you plan to go on an extended vacation, you go through the process and prepare for the trip by booking a ticket, purchasing supplies, packing supplies in a suitcase, etc. And more complex and lengthier the trip, the more complex and prolonged your preparation.
Think of your wellness and lifestyle goals in a similar context. The challenging the goal, the more diligent preparation you need.
Divide the goal into individual parts that are measurable, just like planning a trip.
- Be clear about what you are trying to achieve. Please write, read, reread, parse, and define it until you are sure that is precisely what you want to achieve. Unless you have a clear definition of what you are trying to achieve, it will be hard for you to get there.
- Divide the final goal into steps. Define dates by which you want to achieve those steps, including the final goal.
- Make sure you’re not overgoaling. Over-goaling is where you set a goal that you know you cannot achieve, but you set it anyway. It works if you are a person who is not too self-critical and ok with yourself even if you do not reach the entire target and happy if you reach part of the target. Under-goaling works for self-critical people who give up when they miss the target. Ex- If you know you can work out three days a week, set yourself a target to work out two days a week!
- Start working backward from the final goal.
- Make changes incrementally in small steps.
- Each time you make changes, evaluate the most challenging part in making those changes and address them to eliminate friction in making those changes.
- Involve family members to keep you accountable. Find someone who wants to make changes with you and keep each other accountable. Is aunt Sarah a mentor or distractor?
- Write down every aspect of your planning.
- Keep yourself accountable or find someone who keeps you accountable.
- Find a buddy to make these changes. Make them fun.
We can set a goal, do all the planning, and still not reach fruition unless committed to it. Mind is a tricky beast. Each person has their ways to make it function better. But here are some of the short tricks that will help you get to where you want to be.
- Transferring planning to accountability- start by setting alarms in your cell phone for everything you want to do but keep forgetting—Ex alarm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5 pm for the gym. Make sure your workout partner is aware of timing so you can do it simultaneously.
- Planning to action- keep time aside for what you plan to do. Minimize friction by letting your family know that it is your workout time and you do not want to be disturbed. Arrange for childcare etc.
- Motivation – while motivation is critical for long-term health, you may initially find it hard to find the motivation to do things you want to do. So do not depend on the motivation for everything. Do not tell yourself- I do not have the motivation to run, so I can’t run. A better way to do it is – just get ready and do what you want to do!. And you will be surprised how often you will find the motivation to work out just by making that behavioral change
- Muscle memory- your final target is to get to a point where you do not need motivation or even think about doing what you need to do. You will do them because you miss them if you do not do them.
- Linking – link routine activities you do with habits you want to develop. Ex brush your teeth link this to taking meds or going to the gym.
- Triggers- leave triggers in the home where you can see them, which will remind you to get back into the routine. Ex pair of shoes placed, reminding one to get back to the gym.
- If you are like most people, you will fall off the routine in process of developing a habit. Everyone falls off the routine occasionally! Having a backup in place is key to getting back to routine. It could be a reminder from a friend or family, some triggers at home that will remind you to get back into a routine.
- Do not be self-critical. Forgive yourself. Self-criticizing makes the process only harder, and it is antithetical to what you should be doing. If we are too self-critical, it can be depressing. Start looking at the progress you achieved and self-congratulate! That is when you will feel motivated to move forward.
And best of luck with all your goals in the new year!