We’re more motivated to change if we think we can do it, so we can help to make the change easier by planning for it. If you want to start a diet tomorrow and it’s 7pm on Sunday night when all the shops are shut and all you have in the fridge is cheese, it’s probably not going to go so well.
Why do you want to do this?
Understanding why it’s important for you to change is key to success. When the going gets tough, you need something to help you stay focussed. We’re all motivated by and towards different things, and our own experiences of success and failure as well as our interests, culture and values will influence our decisions to make change.
Most of what we do is done routinely and unconsciously, so when we want to change a part of our lives, we have to give it some conscious thought. It’s likely that your current habit is just that because other people, or your routines, help to keep it going. If you’re a smoker, think about when you would usually reach for a cigarette and plan to change this routine.
What’s stopping you?
We’ve all been in that position where we just can’t find the motivation to change. It just seems like too big a hurdle or not on the priority list. Thinking about what’s stopping you is as important as thinking about the reasons for doing it in the first place. You know all those reasons you’d give a friend if they asked you, but also all those ones you’d be too embarrassed to share. Acknowledging what’s stopping you, or what might prevent you from succeeding can help you to find the problems before they arise which means you’re more likely to meet your goal. For example, if you smoke in a group, or as part of a social situation, how are you going to maintain those friendships whilst keeping to your goal?
Set a goal
Set yourself a target but be realistic. If you want to stop smoking for example, quitting altogether might be too big a challenge, so cut down first and cut out the one that’s going to be easiest to do. It can help to think about what has helped you to be successful before and to use that knowledge to make this change happen.
The carrot and the stick
Change usually happens either because we want it to or because someone else has driven us to it. Sometimes our own desires to change aren’t sufficient to get us going and in these circumstances it can be helpful to have an external push. Perhaps you need to call in a friend or family member to help keep you accountable. Some people find it helpful to keep their cigarette money in a jar in the kitchen, or put it aside in a savings account to spend on a treat. If you’re someone who likes to rise to a challenge, perhaps you could see your change as part of a fundraising challenge – get sponsored, or see this as a stepping stone towards something bigger in the future.
Success breeds success
Change isn’t easy. It takes conscious effort to change a routine and habits that have developed over time, so don’t try to do it all at once. Achieving your goal, no matter how small will increase your confidence in your ability to keep going, so keep setting the targets and reward yourself for having achieved them. If you can see results, you’ll keep trying.
No matter what we do, how much we plan and how hard we try, there will be times when things just don’t fall into place. It can be helpful to think about what happened, but think of it as a learning opportunity rather than dwelling on the negative– what can you do next time to help you succeed?
Whatever you decide you want to achieve, plan for success and go for it. Good Luck!
Top tips for success
• Identify what you want to achieve, why and what success will look like for you.
• Build on your existing strengths, or revisit something you’ve enjoyed before. We have an inbuilt tendency to play to our strengths, so consider what yours are and use them to help you with this change.
• Think of something that’s going to inspire and challenge you. Couch to 5k is one way of starting to exercise, but perhaps a dance class might be more up your street.
• Think about what keeps your current habit going. Do you always have a cigarette first thing in the morning, or head to the fridge when you’re stressed. What could you do instead? Distraction is key in the beginning, so plan to do something differently – that could be as simple as putting the cigarettes somewhere different.
• If it’s an addiction you want to quit, motivation might not be enough on its own, so keep your options open and consider alternatives such as nicotine replacement therapy or vaping.
• Using a list of pros and cons for both the new habit and staying the same can help to reveal what might be stopping you from starting or which might get in the way of success.
• Be realistic and honest with yourself about what you feel able to achieve. If you can fit it into your current lifestyle, or only have to make small adjustments, you’re more likely to succeed.
• Find a support network – family and friends to help keep you on track and support you in your efforts.
• Try not to dwell on the failures. See them as an opportunity to learn from and adjust your goal.