1. Start with a positive goal
Giving up something sounds like you're missing out, reframe the goal so it's a positive statement. When I stopped smoking I didn't give it up, I decided I wanted to be a non-smoker, then every time I didn't have a cigarette I was one step closer to my goal.
2. Make your goal SMART
We've all heard of SMART goals, in fact most of us are a little sick of the acronym but it's been hanging around for a while now so there must be some good reasons. Let’s take a look:
Specific so you know exactly what success looks like when you get there.
Measurable so you know when you've achieved it, and you can track your progress along the way.
Achievable i.e. if you're a couch potato don’t set a goal of running a marathon by June. Try biting off a smaller chunk like doing a fun run at the end of February, then build up from there.
Relevant to something you think is important. What's the point of what you're trying to do, who are you doing it for? If it’s not connected to a bigger picture then motivation might be a problem. Find something that compels you to want to change.
Timed - if you aim at nothing that's usually what you hit. When do you want this? Two weeks, 6 months, 3 years? If it's long term try setting several shorter term goals along the way to build confidence.
3. Strengthen your willpower
It turns out that willpower is a bit like a muscle that you can strengthen by doing small habitual things differently. Try making your next cuppa, using your mouse, or sending your next text with your non-dominant hand. Carrying bags, unlocking doors, even folding your arms the reverse way while watching a movie and are all opportunities to improve your willpower and make making changes easier.
4. Understand that change is a process
Do you know there are five stages we pass through when making a change?
Pre-contemplation: before you even realise you want to change. If you've made a new year’s resolution then you're already through this stage.
Contemplation: when you start thinking about what you want to change and imagining what it might be like.
Preparation: making plans like getting new laces for your runners, buying swimming goggles, cutting or printing our healthy midweek meals helps prepare you for the change. This is also a good time to identify any obstacles you're likely to face and plan some strategies to deal with them.
Action: the day you start or stop doing whatever it is you've chosen.
Maintenance: keeping it going. Once you're achieved your goal how will you motivate yourself to stick with it.
The final, not often discussed stage is Relapse. Sometimes it happens and it's not the end of the world, it's simply time to go back to stage 3 and do a bit more planning.
5. Set up cues to help make and maintain the change
Create ways of making good behaviours easy and things you want to give up more difficult.
If you're trying to increase or introduce a new behaviour create a trigger to help, like putting your gym gear out before going to bed, or setting a reminder on your phone to eat a piece of fruit in the afternoon.
However if you want to stop doing something you’ll need to remove the usual triggers and make it more difficult. So if you want to stop having a beer the minute you walk in the door make sure there's none cold when you get home and stock the fridge with a non-alcoholic alternative, put a photo on the fridge that represents a healthier you, and use your normal trigger for something else like "when I get home and reach the fridge door I will use the photo to motivate me to walk around the block.
Making changes doesn’t have to be all hard work it just takes a bit of planning and practice. Like everything else you’re already good at.
Happy New Year
If you need help getting started why not try an introductory coaching package or, if you have a group interested in learning more about making changes, book a changing habits and behaviours workshop.