How to make positive change stick
Making long-term change can be difficult, but it all comes down to the psychology of forming new habits. Planning, practising, and celebrating the small wins along the way can help you can reach your goal.
When I’m coaching people to achieve their goals, one of the most common things I come up against is how to make a change stick. Often it feels like we set a goal and fly through the first few days – but then the wheels begin to fall off. People slip back into their existing habits as the momentum of change slowly drops away. I’m sure we’ve all experienced this sort of setback in the past.
To me, there are three key parts to change. If you can plan for each stage, instead of impulsively jumping in, your chances of achieving lasting change improve dramatically and you give yourself the best chance of success.
Finding the value in change
The crux of making a change stick, rests with our attitude. We need to connect with a deep personal motivation in order to get through the temporary obstacles associated with change.
So the first step is to look at the issue and understand why you want to change, what’s stopping you from doing so, and what value you will derive when you achieve the change. For example, just saying ‘I want to lose 5 kgs’ often isn’t enough. You need to consider and complete the whole narrative – how this change will improve your physical health and deliver mental wellbeing benefits over time, such as increased confidence, elevated energy levels and a serious self satisfaction from achieving a long desired goal.
It might sound like a cliché, but change doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the journey. Think of change as a process, a bridge from one state to another. Sometimes that pathway twists and turns, and includes steep hills and potholes, but there are steps you can take along the way to help you stay on track.
Firstly, prepare to succeed! Sadly most attempts at change fail because of inadequate preparation. Yet the good thing is we can predict most of the things that could stop us from reaching our goal. So take the time to identify your potential downfalls, so you can set up safety nets and have the right support in place to help you through those difficult moments.
The second step is what I call ‘chunking’ behaviours or routines. That is, connecting a desired new action or behavioural shift to a pre-existing positive habit that’s already in your daily routine. For example, I was continuously forgetting to take my vitamins, so to help me remember them, I placed the bottle right next to my toothbrush, because brushing my teeth is a deeply ingrained habit. Now those two actions go hand in hand and I don’t forget.
Lastly, it’s good to start small, build momentum, and celebrate the wins along the way. Start by identifying just one or two actions and sticking with them. Write them down, make them visible and share them with your friends. Ask others for support and maybe even see if anyone wants to join you in the process. Plan in advance your rewards for meeting your commitments, and don’t forget to celebrate your efforts as well as the outcomes you achieve. Keep the positive affirmations going!
Making change stick
Attempting change shouldn’t be all or nothing. In fact achieving a big change is often gradual, and you need to pace and praise yourself along the way. Thankfully, our brains have plasticity, meaning they are able to change and form new neural pathways throughout our lives. Studies show a new habit takes around 66 days to form, so once you’ve made your change, it’s about repetition and imbedding that new routine.
The key to making change stick is a continued dedicated effort – practise practise practise! Often you need to fall short and try again before you learn how to succeed. So if your first attempts fail, just stick with it and try again…and again, and again. For example, it can take may take 30 or more quit attempts before being successful, but each time they learn from their mistakes they improve their next effort. Trying is an important part of the process, and the more attempts you make, the closer you will get to your end goal.
When you do make a change that sticks, you will reap all the benefits. Not only will you enjoy the value that your change delivers, but you will derive a deep personal satisfaction from knowing you did it! Be proud of your efforts, reward yourself and share the news with those around you. Relish the success you created for yourself… you deserve it!
Originally published on www.onelife.aiavitality.com.au on October 9, 2018.
Alisa Camplin is an Olympic Gold Medalist, in-demand Keynote Speaker, Corporate Ambassador, and Human Performance Consultant who delivers results-driven Resilience and Human Performance Training and Development Programs. Connect with Alisa.