How to Make that Change Stick: The 11 Point Checklist for 2010

by Henrik Edberg


Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notsogoodphotography/ / CC BY 2.0

“The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.”
Ben Herbster

“The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
Flora Whittemore

“The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”
Marcus Aurelius

It’s a fresh new year.

Although you can make a positive change in your life at any time most people get an extra dose of enthusiasm around this time of the year. That’s only natural.

But how do you go about making changes that will stick? How do you not wind up in the same place where you started a few weeks or months from now?

Below is a sort of checklist for 2010 that will help you to avoid some of the most common problems that people have when they trying make a change. I have created it so I have something to look back on as I move through this year. You may want to do the same.

1. Choose something YOU really want.

It’s easy to tipsily declare your New Year’s resolution for 2010 when you got a glass of champagne in your hand. But do you actually want it?

Maybe you don’t really want it that much. But the world around seems to want it. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve it. But it might be better to focus on what YOU really want. Both to steer your life in the direction you yourself want and to create positive internal motivation instead of external pressure you feel you have to live up to.

How do you find out what you really want to do? By thinking and by experimenting and just trying things out (the image you have of something in your head can be very different from the actual experience). Get to know what you really want in your life.

2. Choose a main focus.

Choose one main area of life to focus on each year. This makes it easier to actually get a lot of things done and taking massive action instead of getting lost in too many commitments and getting worn out by trying to balance all areas of life.

This year I will be focusing on expanding and growing my business (which is this website at the moment, but soon a bit more than that). I have also set a smaller, secondary focus on developing and expanding my social life even more. Fitness and health that was my main focus in 2009 will take a backseat. I’ll mainly let it run on autopilot based on the positive changes I made last year.

Think about what area of your life that you really want to focus on. It may be the area you know deep down that needs to most improvement. Or the area that you think you will reap the greatest rewards by improving.

3. Find a way that fits you.

Different things fit different people. It did for example take me quite some time of trying different ways to do cardio exercise before I finally found body weight exercises.

Experiment and find what works for you and what fits your personality. This will make it a lot easier to stick to your positive change and develop a relaxed consistency.

4. Set big goals, not reasonable ones.

One mistake I made last year was to set a too small goal for how much money I wanted to make from my business each month. It was reasonable, but it also didn’t inspire me that much. By the summer I realized this and tripled the amount of money I wanted to make.

Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable but also excited. My mind started to spit out solutions to help me reach that goal. I didn’t reach the goal in 2009 but my income shot up quite a bit during the last six months of that year.

So this year I’m definitely setting bigger goals than I used to.

I may not reach them but if you aim for the stars and wind up in the treetops then that’s still pretty great.

5. Set the goal but focus on the daily process.

I for instance use this when I write and when I workout. I don’t take responsibility for the results in my mind. I take responsibility for showing up and doing my workout/writing. The results – I become stronger and the website grows – come anyway from that consistent action. And this makes it easier for me to take action when I know that is all I need to focus on. Instead of using half of the energy and focus I have available on hoping that I “reach my goal real, real soon”.

Focus on the process and you will be a lot more relaxed and prone to continue than if you stare yourself blind on the potential results that never come as quickly as you want to and puts you on an emotional rollercoaster from day to day.

6. Find ways to overcome the things that cause you to relapse into old behavior.

Stress may cause you to feel like smoking again. If so, find a few relaxation techniques that can help you. Worry may lead you to eating too much to feel better. If that is an issue that pops up for you then learn to reduce your worries in life. If you get stuck in inaction learn how to up your enthusiasm and motivation quickly or to just take action anyway.

Find ways to turn bad days or moments into something positive once again.

7. Let other people help you out.

If you’re about to quit smoking ask others who have overcome the addiction what their best tips are. Do some research on/offline. This can save you pain, frustration and it can help you to keep going.

You can also tell people your goals to get accountability and motivation to take action. And you don’t have to go it alone. Finding someone who wants to make the same change that you want can make things easier.

8. Use laziness to your advantage.

I’m kinda lazy. But I use that to my advantage by for example not having any sweets or cookies in my cupboards. I only have healthy stuff there. Since I may feel the craving for something sweet or a snack from time to time but I am too lazy to go to the store I wind up eating what I have at home. A simple habit that has helped me to improve my health.

I also know that I am too lazy to go to the gym or go out running three times a week. So I workout at home. This has helped me to have very good consistency.

Such small, invisible barriers can have a great impact on your daily life. Remove them or use them or to your advantage.

9. Don’t confuse homeostasis with “time to give up”.

One big problem with making that change stick is homeostasis. What that means is that any system wants to be stable. That goes for you. And for the people around you.

So after the initial enthusiasm for your new change in life wanes it may not feel as that much fun anymore. It’s sort of enthusiasm backlash. This is the homeostasis kicking in within your mind (no matter if the goal/habit etc. is actually very positive for you). It’s a resistance to change to keep the system (you) stable. If you are simply aware of this being what it is – rather than a signal to give up – you can persevere, be patient and keep going more easily.

You should also be aware that the homeostasis may appear in the people around you too. Sure, you getting shape might be great. But it means changes in the lives of the people around you too (perhaps new food and nights spent running instead of watching TV with the family etc.). So the people around may react negatively in some way.

Realize that it is the homeostasis in them, not that they are being mean. It’s their brains doing what’s natural to keep the system (the family, circle of friends etc.) stable when “scary change” intrudes.

10. Use reminders in your environment.

I have written about this many times since it have found it very helpful for staying on track and making a change stick.

Simply write down your goals on paper and put them where you can’t avoid seeing them every day. Your fridge, bathroom mirror and workspace are such places.

Paper works fine for this but I have started using a medium sized whiteboard instead. There I can write – in big letters – what my main focus is, what my most important goals are and also any other important thought or perhaps quote that I want to be reminded of each and every day.

11. Don’t beat yourself up when you slip.

You will most likely have a few bad days and fall flat on your face even if you follow the tips above. The important thing here is to not be too hard on yourself and keep on beating yourself up for a week. That could certainly lead to giving up altogether. Plus, it’s kinda pointless.

Instead, learn what you can from the experience so you don’t have to repeat it too many times. Then get back on the horse again the next day. And keep going.

Look at it like this: 2010 will pass no matter what you do. You will arrive at New Year’s Eve this year too.

So if your fail or make some mistakes, so what? Since the time will pass no matter what you do you might as well try again. By doing that you can make 2010 your most awesome year yet.

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{ 22 comments }

Michelle @ Following Your Joy January 4, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Hi Henrik,

The focus of this post is so important…because there are a ton of articles out there on how to “set” goals, but where most people struggle is in actually making the change “stick.”

The one that really resonated with me is “Find a way that fits you.” In my coaching work with clients, this is a big one! It’s the easy way out to do things the way “they” tell you to…but if you don’t know what works best for you, then you’re not setting yourself up for success.

Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Shakespeare: “Know thyself and to thine own self be true.”

Thanks so much and best wishes to you for a fantastic 2010 with positive change that sticks like crazy!

Leah January 4, 2010 at 5:48 pm

As a subscriber to your blog, I always enjoy reading your uplifting and inspiring articles – and have shared many with friends – and this latest one came just in time as I was just to start writing out not only my things to do list for this day, but as well as seriously think about my goals for this year.

Too many of us do not write down our goals, and I cannot tell you enough how right you are in the importance of writing down one’s goals and having them seen on an every day basis.

One lovely ‘trick’ is to write down those goals as if they have been already achieved, yet you are grateful for them – for example, ” I am so grateful I have lost those 20 pounds and have kept them off” – using the grateful list on your goals somehow mysteriously moves into motion those needed energies to have those ‘goals’ come right into fruition.

Great job – thanks for sharing! ~Leah
ps Happy New Year! Keep up the amazing work – you are reaching people who are successfully realizing their own worth and abilities!

Richard Shelmerdine January 4, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I think its a great idea to pick a new thing every month but an overall theme if you will of the year. It’s what I’m doing this year with business.

Karen J January 4, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Love #9: “Enthusiasm Backlash”!
Thank you for that reminder ~ the eventual “I-don’t-wanna”s get me with distressing regularity. No more!

Happy New Year and Bright Blessings ~
Karen

Sherry @ Interview Roadmap January 5, 2010 at 12:12 am

I love the idea of keeping reminders. I’d also add that you can set calendar reminders on your phone and have them go off once a month, once a week, etc. It’s a nice way to use technology to your advantage! I also love the idea of having a theme for each month, especially when it comes to business. If you are strategic in the way you go about making your resolutions happne, you’ll see a big difference this year. Here’s to your success! May every area of your life be filled with abundance, prosperity and blessings!

Srinivas Rao January 5, 2010 at 3:53 am

Heinrik,

I’ve started off 2010 in a very similar manner. I’ve definitely set loftier goals than I have in the past, but I’ve been very smart to chose the things I REALLY. One thing I do is write my goals down every single day when I wake up and every single night before I sleep. Just by doing this I’m knocking down goals like I never have before in my life.The component on homeostasis I think is really important for people to keep in mind as they move forward.

Baker January 5, 2010 at 3:56 am

Excellent post here. You pretty much put all of this in perspective for me with this post. There are some really great points here. I especially like : Set the goal but focus on the daily process. I believe the process is where the juice in life is.

Susan Liddy January 5, 2010 at 6:16 am

Hi there Hendrick and Happy New Year!
Really good stuff here.
I’ve always been big on goals… love defining them, envisioning them and putting those beloved check marks next to them as they are completed!
Yahoo!

I’d like to add a reminder to celebrate at each step in the process.
So often we forget that every task we complete is reason to acknowledge ourselves and “do a little dance.” These small celebrations along the way really help to stay motivated and encouraged.

Here’s to the best year of our lives yet… !!!
Woot!

Susan

Jamie Favreau January 5, 2010 at 8:59 am

I find it is hard to start the goal. I have already relapsed but I figure I need to give myself a break. I am trying to establish a good work ethic and change the hours of work. I am a night owl and am more productive then but when the rest of the world does not like my time schedule so I need to be trying to get in line with them. I am trying to start a marketing consultancy. So this would help if I set real hours of business.

Maria (Tough Cookie) January 5, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Hi! I just stumbled across your blog, and I will be reading! I am a 25 y/o raw vegan graduate student (clinical social work, mental health therapy) with a progressive neurological disease. I preach positivity in my blog to my readers, also. It has kept me going with such a painful disease.

Happy 2010!

<3 Maria

Nacho Jordi January 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I like your point about goal setting. It is always one of my main doubts when new year comes: big goals (because it is better to dream big), or reasonable ones (because those dreams are more likely to come true)? Setting a very high standard can create anxiety, but it is true that it also puts you in motion. The key, maybe, is dreaming big but counterbalancing it with focusing on the process (#5) and, like Leah mentions, not forgetting gratitude along the way.

David January 5, 2010 at 11:34 pm

I’d love to emphasise two ideas from Napolean Hill:

1) desire – whatever your resolution is, make it something you REALLY want
2) persistence – you gotta keep on going for your goal even when the goal posts change OR when something comes out of left-field..to be able to use the tools you have to be able to cope with changing circumstances.

Happy New Year Henrik!

Declan January 6, 2010 at 1:58 am

You’ve done it again, my friend! Great list. Not an ounce of fat on there. Nice one, sir!

Camille January 6, 2010 at 3:25 am

As usual, Henrik, I found good tips on your post. My favorite? #10 – writing down your goals. A great way to keep them in the forefront of your mind. I like your idea about the whiteboard; since I’m at my computer every evening writing or researching, I could hang it up on the wall next to my computer (couldn’t miss seeing those goals every night!)

rusaer January 6, 2010 at 4:39 pm

we always say:

who you are?
what you can do?
how to do this?

Kealah Parkinson January 6, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Henrik, thank you for this very detailed account of how to KEEP our resolutions this year! I bravely share my own list on my blog (http://www.BeyondTalk.blogspot.com), along with a 3-point system that uses a lot of the same principals you address — in admittedly less detail. Are you going to share your progress with us throughout the year? If so, I look forward to reading it — & reaching our resolved goals together!

Henrik Edberg January 6, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I’m sure I’ll share some lessons I learn from my goals and what I focus on this year. I may also share my results at the end of the year. I haven’t decided if I will share any more than that yet.

Henrik Edberg January 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Thank you all for the great comments and added advice, I – and I’m sure the rest of the readership – really appreciate all that great stuff. Have an awesome 2010!

Ana January 7, 2010 at 3:07 am

Thank you! you just inspired me to do what i’ve been putting off. Meaning, i already started the year in a not-so-great way by putting off things that will change my life for better.

Sibyl - alternaview January 7, 2010 at 3:38 am

Great post Henrik with really helpful information. It is so easy to come up with that New Year’s resolution or set that long term goal, but we really do need to also focus on developing our own approach that will allow us to maintain the necessary motivation and discipline. As you mentioned, everyone really does need to determine specifically what that means for them and how that should play out in their daily routines. I think once you have set your goals and figured out the approach for you that works, you can really begin to see progress and things start to fall into place. Thanks for the great list.

Nacie Carson January 7, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Number 11 I think is the most important – we always seem to forget that we are just humans, not perfect robots. What matters is that you get back on the horse, not that you fell off it!

Carol King January 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

Brilliant post. I particularly liked #9. I changed my lifestyle quite a bit coming to the end of last year and I have been steadily loosing weight and getting into better shape. At first my one particular family member was supportive but now I’ve noticed that snide remarks are often made and little comments about how come I haven’t given up yet. What you said about homeostasis really gives me some clarity. Thanks so much for this list.

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