How to make changes that last
It is a time of year when many of us reflect and commit to being better and doing better. This is a noble intention but we all know what the road to hell is paved with. Ninety percent of new year’s resolutions are abandoned within 6 weeks. If you want to succeed, give considered thought and plan well. Here are my 12 top tips to help you make lasting positive changes to your life in 2018.
- Start small and build. Psychologically, we are more inclined to maintain small incremental changes that happen gradually. Neuroscience shows this to be true. This is more obvious when we think in terms of physical exercise. You would expect to train and steadily build up to running a marathon. When doing a difficult yoga pose, you would start with an easier preparatory pose and build up bit by bit. Same for lifting heavy weights. The same approach works for all changes.
- Your own life experience is your best teacher. Reflect on past changes you made and sustained. What were the key factors for your success?
- While it can be useful to tell one person that will hold you accountable and check in with you from time to time, it is not always helpful to tell everyone what you are doing. This can put unnecessary pressure on you to explain yourself to others when your energy would be better used to focus on and do what you need and want to do.
- Do what makes you happy. It is much easier to sustain things you enjoy. If you hate going to the gym but love dancing, choose dance as your exercise.
- Make the changes incremental. If you want to make changes to your eating habits, first integrate one or two changes. Sustain them for a month and then make further changes. And continue.
- If you are adding things to your day, take something off.
- Don’t reduce sleep to fit more into your day. Short-changing yourself on sleep never leads to good results. Sleep deprivation is a recognised form of torture the world over.
- If the changes relate to your diet, plan what you will eat. Many healthy eating plans go out the window because people are hungry and grab the first thing they see.
- Don’t expect yourself to do the new thing, particularly if it is challenging when you are at your most exhausted. If you are always very tired after work, that is not the best time to expect yourself to go to the gym or do the first chapter for the book you want to write. Always give quality time to new ventures.
- If you fail or fall off the wagon, don’t give out to yourself and don’t punish yourself. Get back into it.
- Write down your resolutions and goals and look at them weekly and adjust to your circumstances. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t. If your goal is to get healthy, food, exercise and mental wellbeing will all be part of that. If you don’t succeed at the gym, you can try walking or yoga. Explore until you find what works for you.
- And …. meditate. This makes each and every change easier to maintain. If you can change your mind, you can change anything. Meditation is the ultimate workout for your mind making it strong, balanced and flexible. This also helps you see yourself objectively which is important when making lasting changes.
After reading these 12 tips, reflect and make a plan of a few areas you want to improve in 2018. Life is a marathon not a sprint. It is not about making quick changes that last a month. It is about making changes to your life-style that last a lifetime. Plan in more detail what to do in month one and more generally for later months. Regular reviews may refine and redefine things. While we would all love things to happen instantly, long-term success is almost always built on a foundation of consistency and hard work. 85 percent of people that lose weight on diets put it back on … and more. Rash sudden changes that involve an on or an off-button do not sustain and create an all or nothing mindset. This can easily lead to imbalance and unhappiness. If it takes you three to six months to get into the routine you want to get into, be happy with that. Transformation is the result of consistent positive change. Frustration is the result of inconsistent positive change. The only difference between the two is persistence and practice. And lastly if you want to make changes, start now.
Wishing you a very happy, healthy and joyful 2018 !!