There are plenty of inspiring articles about making lifestyle changes, but the truth is that it can be hard to change your life and make it stick. Chances are, you have seen this in others or experienced it yourself. Lost weight often comes back. New Year’s resolutions frequently fail. Gyms notoriously get a lot of signups early in January with a big drop-off in participation by the end of the month. Maybe you can remember times when you felt very motivated to practice a musical instrument daily or to get to bed at a certain time every night only to lose interest or fall back on old habits. A big lifestyle change is not impossible, but it’s not easy either. The tips below can help you stick to your changes.
Dig Into the ‘Why’
While sometimes there are genuine outside obstacles that get in the way of pursuing your dreams, what people often do is self-sabotage, even if they do not realize it consciously. This can happen when the goal is not one you are truly interested in pursuing. These are usually things that you have been pressured by others into pursuing or that you feel like you should go after. For example, perhaps you feel you need to jump-start your career instead of continuing at the stable but unambitious job that you have. However, you fumble interviews for promotions or fail to study for an exam you need to pass to advance. It’s worth considering whether you genuinely want a high-powered career or if you simply feel that it is something you should want. If you can meet your financial obligations and you are happy where you are, finding fulfillment in activities outside your job, perhaps you have chosen the wrong goal for yourself.
Make a Plan
Once you have thought through your aspiration and come to a reasonable certainty that it is something you genuinely want to pursue, you need to make a plan. This involves thinking about how you want to get from where you are to where you want to be. Perhaps you really do want to push harder in your career or change careers. You might need to get that bachelor’s degree you never completed or get a different degree than the one you have. Part of making the plan involves thinking through obstacles and how you will handle them. For example, you might wonder how you will pay for college. A mix of federal and private loans may help. If you are concerned about repaying the debt, you can use a student loan repayment calculator to determine what your payments will be to private lenders. You should also consider whether the pay from your new career will cover that or if you will need to tighten your budget or even pursue a different career. Making these plans can help prevent you from giving up when you face your first serious obstacles.
Make Your Steps Manageable
A common reason for failure to keep progressing toward goals is trying to do too much at once. Small lifestyle changes that are gradually integrated tend to be the ones that stick. Your goal may be to run a marathon, but no one expects to be able to go 26 or even half that distance to start. If you don’t run at all, you might need to start by walking a few times a week. Even that big career change goal does not need to involve quitting your job all at once. The first step might be taking one class or beginning to read blogs, newsletters or journals about the field that interests you. Track your progress so that you can see how far you’ve come in a few weeks even when it feels as though you aren’t changing much day to day.
Rewards can give you something to work toward, but building in accountability in other ways is important too. One of the best ways to be accountable is using a buddy system. Find someone else who is pursuing a similar aim. This might be someone online if you don’t have anyone in your daily life who is suitable. You can encourage one another or even engage in the activity you are pursuing together in some cases. There are also some very creative ways people make themselves accountable. For example, you could give a friend $50 or $100 that they are allowed to send to a cause that you do not support if you don’t meet your goal. Sometimes, simply telling other people about your plan is sufficient. Accountability should not be needlessly punitive. Instead, it is about finding a fun and engaging way to keep yourself on track.
Streamline Your Life
Some people have found success with a lifestyle change by examining how they spend their days and considering whether their everyday actions correspond to the goal they eventually want to reach. For example, perhaps you really want to learn a language but you never seem to have time to take a class, work with a language app or watch a foreign film to brush up on your listening skills. Learning the language becomes a “someday” goal that you never really make any progress on even though you have plenty of time to scroll social media or binge your favorite TV show for the third time. What if you arranged your life so that you spent more time in activities that actively supported the change you want to make? Over time, you can significantly change your lifestyle to reach your aims.