The Secret to Successful Change
Are you looking to develop some positive habits? Do you start off well but gradually slip into your old way of doing things? Do you struggle to stay motivated? Then this post is for you. Here I share my top five favourite tips for successful change. You may already have some of these nailed. If you’ve got all five sorted then well done, you are well on your way to success. I’d love to hear your tips for successful change too.
If you are planning a small change then you can probably just go for it. I have committed to doing ten minutes of pilates every day to strengthen and support my back. I’ve done pilates off and on for years, I know the exercises which help my back most and I have the equipment at home that I need to do the exercises. I still need the motivation to develop the habit but I have everything I need. I don’t need to do a lot of preparation before I get started.
Contrast this with a client who has decided to go gluten free. They may have a number of items at home that contain gluten which they want to use up before they make the changes. They may need to start reading the labels of some of their favourite products to check that there are no hidden sources of gluten or potential cross contamination from the factory the product was produced in. They may need to look for recipes for alternative meals. If the individual suspects they may be coeliac then they would need to go to the doctor to get tested before they removed gluten from their diet. Taking some time in this scenario rather than jumping straight in will increase the client’s chances of success.
Think about the change that you are planning to make. So you have all of the knowledge and skills to hand to make this change a success? Do you need any equipment to help? Consider whether additional preparation would increase your chance of success.
This is particularly true of New Year’s Resolutions. The start of the New Year might be a fantastic time to make a change – but it might not. It’s not a great time to start a diet if you still have a kitchen stuffed full of Christmas treats – the temptation is likely to be too much. It might be a good time to start on a new fitness regime, whilst you are feeling energised from a break from your usual routine.
Only you can know whether timing is good for you. It will depend on the change you are planning to make and what you have going on in your life. What I would say is that if you are headed in to a high pressure, busy week then that may not be the ideal time. You will find it so much more challenging. Think about what you have planned in before you make a change. If you have a few days where you are in your normal routine then this could be a good time to start. A few successful days can be enough to boost confidence that you can make a change stick.
Find a Buddy
Pull in a friend. Or your partner, or join a group, or a club.
If you are making a change with someone else then:
(1) you are less likely to be surrounded by temptation to fall back into old habits and
(2) you have someone supporting you and sharing the challenge with you.
If you are trying to give up sugar then you might want to convince your office to give up the biscuits for January. If you are making the change alone then try and get someone onside to be your cheerleader. Being accountable to someone else can help you to stick with your resolution. Knowing they are in your corner and encouraging you to stay with it may be the incentive you need to keep with your resolution. Social media can be great for this too. Documenting your progress can give those same feelings of accountability
Be realistic – and be kind to yourself
If we are unhappy with an aspect of our lives the temptation is to plan huge changes. Sometimes this can work, but big change is hard. It takes planning, it takes energy and it often takes a lot of planning and support. If your need for change comes from a place of feeling overwhelmed or stressed then you may not have these resources to draw on. In clinic I see huge benefits to people’s health from what can seem to them to be quite minor changes. So what’s the secret?
When I work with people I start with where they are at. I look at what is going on in their lives, how they eat, sleep, exercise and relax now and I help them identify the small changes that will have the biggest benefits to how they feel. Once they start to feel better they have more energy to make bigger changes and get even more positive results. Obviously they have the benefit of working with me to help them to unpick this, but we can all do some of this for ourselves. Break your goal down into smaller steps. Pick one that looks achievable. Nail that one and then move on.
I write this as a Brit and we are probably the nation that absolutely need the most help with this. As a culture we are not great at patting ourselves on the back and saying well done. (We are great at putting ourselves down and being very self-critical). Review your goals regularly and make sure you capture and celebrate the successes – big and small – you need this to get you through the tough times. When you are working towards a big goal it’s important you can look back at those smaller successes to see how far you have come.