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



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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  • Carol King January 17, 2010, 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.