How to make changes that stick

Something in my life has just mentally clicked over from annoying-thing-I-don’t-like-about-myself to enough-is-enough-already. I’m ready for a change. But when you’re familiar with that desire for things to be different but the sad reality of them, well, never actually changing, the need to set yourself up for success becomes as strong as pit bull’s jaw. Here are three wise ways to make changes that stick.

Break it into the tiniest “to do” possible
Let’s say you want to have more energy. You feel ready to run one thousand errands when you eat some protein at every meal. What kind of protein do you like? Turkey sausage, you say? Write down “buy turkey sausage” on your to do list. Identify what you want in your life and then distill it down to the smallest action items. Want to run a 5k Thanksgiving morning? Download the Couch to 5k running plan. Schedule your first gym time. Lay out your workout clothes. See how easy it is to get going? When you break your goal down into small pieces it feels less overwhelming, true, but when you get specific about what needs to be done you also set yourself up to succeed.

Ask, don’t tell
A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that when people ask themselves about their intention rather than stating it––asking “Will I?” instead of saying, “I will”––they perform the task better. Researchers posit that pausing to ask yourself if you’re really going to do something triggers self-motivation. Lay out your goal, then ask yourself each morning, “Will I make choices today that support my aim?” Heck, yeah!

Think in small blocks of time
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when our goal is to lose 50 pounds or reverse our type 2 diabetes. Huge health goals seem to require waves of change to roll over our entire lives. But that kind of all-or-nothing thinking can psych you out before you even get going. Try thinking about the next two hours rather than the rest of your life. What can you do in the next 120 minutes to support your goal? If there’s a meal in that time frame, make choices that will get you a step closer to what you want. If there’s a block of free time, spend it being active, writing down motivating quotes or enlisting a buddy. When even taking things one day at a time seems overwhelming, try looking at just the next two hours.