If you are like me, there are many things we need to work on — things like eating healthier, exercising regularly, writing thank-you notes, and keeping up with friends better. Change is hard and finding the motivation to change is a personal challenge. How does one get started? Here are some tips for jump-starting your resolve.
Begin with the benefits. It’s easier to do something hard if you can see the rewards. Ask yourself, what are the benefits of making the change? Then consider the negatives — what will happen if you continue your old, unhealthy habit? For example, if you wanted to eat healthier foods and cut back on junk food, you might make a list like this:
— Benefits of change: More energy; feel better; lose weight; and live longer.
— Negatives of continuing: gain weight; lack energy; and put self at risk for serious disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes,
Pick out the most motivating reasons and use them to kick-start a new, healthier lifestyle.
— Plan for success. Once you’ve identified your bad habit, and all the reasons you should break it, you need a plan. Be specific. Identify your goal and break it into smaller, more specific goals such as, “I am going to lose five pounds over the next two months” or “I am going to exercise three times a week for the next month.” Mastering a small goal before taking on a bigger one is more likely to translate into long-term results.
— Make a plan. Based on your specific goals, put together a reasonable plan that includes all the necessary action steps. Plan each week by writing down exactly what you will do. Then track your progress by keeping a daily record of the changes you’ve made. After a week, evaluate your progress. Don’t be discouraged if you did not reach your goals. Praise yourself for the progress you made, and decide whether your goals were realistic. If not, adjust them and see how you do in the next week. If your goals were realistic and were met, then reward yourself with a little treat. Try something other than food, though, such as seeing a movie or downloading some of your new favorite songs. Then look forward to continued progress in the coming week.
— Excuses, excuses… Even though we may have good intentions, sometimes we sabotage our own efforts without knowing it. Some people are great at coming up with excuses that prevent them from following through, such as “I have so many tough classes that there’s no time to get to the gym” or “I was up so late studying, and there wasn’t anything healthy in the room to eat.” Lapsing once in a while doesn’t make you a failure. Just be careful that a slip doesn’t turn into a free fall. Be aware of your excuses and coach yourself using positive self-talk.
Remember, everyone who has accomplished something meaningful got there through consistent effort and focusing on a goal. So believe in yourself and know that you can succeed.
Christy Strickland is the County Extension Director and Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences in
Robeson County. She can be reached at 671-3276 or by email l at Christy_Strickland@ncsu.edu.