Why is it so hard to make life changes? Most people are aware that making certain healthy lifestyle changes would be good for their long-term well-being. However, various internal obstacles can hold you back and keep you from transforming into the person you really want to be and changing in a lasting way. So, how can you ensure your healthy lifestyle changes become a permanent part of who you are? Because these internal barriers differ from person to person, part of the process is discovering which strategies and approaches work best for you.
Here are 6 tips to help you begin cultivating meaningful changes in your life:
1. Set very realistic, specific, measurable short-term and long-term goals
Have you ever wondered why some people can achieve lasting change more consistently than others? While there are a variety of reasons, one of the most common is setting or failing to set clear and realistic goals. Especially when it comes to making health-related changes, the more specific you are, the greater the chance of being successful. For example, rather than saying you want to start taking more walks to feel better and lose weight, tell yourself you will walk 5 miles a day, 7 days a week (35 miles a week total) to improve both your physical and mental health. This sets a specific and measurable goal that allows you to develop a plan and track your progress.
To ensure you follow through and achieve your short-term and long-term goals, ask yourself a few key questions: “What do I want to achieve?”, “When will I work towards this goal?”, “How will I achieve this goal?”, “How can I break down this goal into actionable steps?”.
2. Move towards your goals from a place of gratitude
One of the most overlooked elements of making significant changes in life is beginning from a place of gratitude. Why is this so important? Gratitude allows you to celebrate the present. There is nothing more draining than trying to make changes from a place of not good enough, less than or stress. Moving towards your goals from a place of gratitude opens the door to relationships, growth, and more opportunities. The peace and stillness you gain from having an appreciation for the life you are already living will help you harness your inner strength – which you can then use to overcome adversity and achieve whatever you have set out to do.
In the words of philosopher Lao Tzu, “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
3. Create a plan to handle inevitable setbacks and challenges
Most people who want to make lifestyle changes start off with good intentions but are derailed as soon as they experience the first setback. Without a plan for handling unexpected roadblocks, they find it difficult to reconnect with their purpose, pick up the pieces, and move forward. Once you have specific goals in mind, it is important to then develop a plan for handling inevitable setbacks and challenges. Ask yourself, “What do I need to do to prepare so I can achieve this goal?”, “Why is this particular goal important to me?”. Envisioning potential obstacles from the very beginning will help you build calm, controlled perseverance, allowing you to overcome self-defeating thoughts and behaviors before they stall your progress.
4. Develop a mindfulness practice to improve your self-awareness
In addition to your well-intentioned resolve to change, it is critical that you also enhance your capacity to sustain focus and handle the inevitable rollercoaster of change. Motivation comes and goes, so it is important to recognize that you cannot solely rely on motivation to achieve change and success in life. You need to build critical self-awareness.
Developing the ability to self-reflect and analyze your experience is a key component of making new habits last. This involves identifying your strengths and shortcomings and being curious about why you do things the way you do. When you learn to observe unhealthy behaviors and experiences with mindful awareness, it ultimately helps you get out of ‘autopilot mode’ so you can troubleshoot and make changes at the root cause level – change your life by first changing your mind.
5. Identify your individual healthy balance
Oftentimes, the reason it feels impossible to sustain lifestyle changes is that we are comparing ourselves to others that seem to be living the perfect lifestyle. In reality, a healthy balance is going to be very different from person to person. There are so many things we have to balance in our lives, from work and goals to family and caring for ourselves and others. Each of us has to discover our own unique balance that keeps us content and on track.
For example, one person might think he or she has achieved balance when they can leave work early enough to have dinner with their family. The next person may view balance as having a flexible schedule. Someone else may feel fulfilled by spending their “free” time in the gym five to six days a week. A healthy balance allows you to easily incorporate changes into the structure of your routine, so they can quickly become second nature. Finding a healthy balance that works for you will help you secure your future and achieve success.
6. Build and strengthen your support network
If you are having trouble achieving your goals, enlist the help of family, friends, and likeminded people. Making healthy lifestyle changes and developing new habits involves difficult decisions on a daily (if not hourly) basis. Because you can also doubt yourself on an hourly basis, you need to make sure you have a support network that will keep you accountable and provide you with encouragement. Share your goals with family and friends and let them know what kind of support you need from them.
It can also be beneficial to find likeminded people that are on the same journey; these connections can really help you gain a fresh perspective and relieve any sense of loneliness you feel along the way. Most importantly, be mindful of your ‘inner circle’; the people closest to you have a huge influence on your mindset, beliefs, and habits. Make sure the people you associate with inspire you, lift you up, and challenge you to go further.
Making healthy lifestyle changes that last takes time and commitment. By incorporating the tips above and being willing to shift your approach, you will make your goals attainable and be able to overcome any setbacks.