Moving your life in a new direction and making some changes is often a challenge.

Anyone who has tried to lose weight, quit smoking, or stick to a new exercise routine knows that making change stick is downright hard.

Despite good intentions, it’s often easier to fall back into familiar habits and routines and not reach your desired goals.

Yet there are plenty of examples of people who have persevered and changed their life for the better.  The trick is to rely on some well-researched strategies that get your head, heard, and hands aligned to help you achieve what you want.


Here are 12 keys to making lasting change in your life:


1) Get clear on what it is that you really want

It will be hard to make lasting change if you don’t have a crystal clear picture of how your life will feel or look different.   Take time to really visualize it.   Write down what it looks like.   Add some detail so you start to internalize it in your mind, heart, and even your body.

If there is something you’re trying to get rid of in your life, focus on what the absence of that item will feel like rather than the negative item itself.   For example, if you are trying to lose weight, visualize your slim body and how much lighter you’ll feel (the outcome) rather than on the ice cream you’ve had to give up for the past 4 weeks.

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2)  Clarify your motivations

Once you know WHAT you want, take time to examine WHY you really want to make a change.   What is the benefit or upside?   What will you gain?  What will you avoid?    For some people, focusing on what positive outcomes will be achieved by changing is the best motivation.   For other people, avoiding pain, embarrassment, illness, financial hardship, etc. is a bigger motivator.   It doesn’t really matter what your reasons are, as long as you are clear on them.   Once you know them, consider writing them down to really help cement them in your mind.


3) Take 100% responsibility for making it happen

Don’t expect that anyone will be more motivated to make the change than you.   Don’t use other people as an excuse for why your desired change can’t or doesn’t happen.

Blaming others is one of the most disempowering thoughts you can have.  It doesn’t promote the right energy level and emotional state of confidence and commitment you’ll need to push you to a better future.

Instead, acknowledge that you are in control of your life, and must make the necessary decisions and take action to make your goals a reality.


4) Ensure you don’t have beliefs that conflict with your goal

The best intentions to make a change in your life will be sabotaged if deep down you don’t believe that what you want is possible, or that making the change will come at too great a cost, or will alter some core aspect of yourself that you don’t want to lose.  If you find yourself struggling to stick to your intentions, take time to really look at what thoughts might be holding you back.


5)  Proactively address any fears or doubts that come up

While having some fears and doubts about making change in your life is normal, it’s important to manage them and keep them from derailing you.   Write down these concerns, talk them out with people you trust and respect, and keep them in perspective.   Remember that most fears and doubts are exaggerated in our minds and may not have a high likelihood of occurring.  Sometimes just verbalizing the fears and doubts out loud to a friend or family member can help dissipate their intensity.


6)  Develop a concrete plan to implement what change you want

Change is hard enough on its own, but if you don’t have a roadmap to help you get there, it will be even more difficult.

Having a plan gives you a sense of direction and a feeling of greater control.  

Develop the plan by thinking about 3-5 major steps or actions it will take to get there.  Get input from people who’ve made the kind of change you want to make.  Ask for advice and guidance about the best way to do things and what is needed.


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7) Build in accountability and support

Most life changes are easier to make when you set up a support system around you to keep you on track.    Your system could include using technology to set up reminders and milestone tracking, attending support groups, establishing a buddy/partner to report progress to, or keeping a journal.   Most important is to remember that there are multiple resources to tap into and plenty of people with expertise.  Your job is to find the support and resources you need.   Don’t be shy in asking for help.


8)  Invest in resources, training, mentoring, or coaching if needed

The most successful people know that moving forward in a new direction can sometimes require strategic investments, such as paid professional help or the right equipment.

If you feel the change you are trying to make is just too hard without it, then make the leap to hire someone or buy the right resources.

If you feel you can’t afford it, consider the cost of not succeeding, or consider what financing options might be available.   If spending money is out of the question, then look for free alternatives, such as people willing to donate their time pro bono, or borrowing the resource temporarily from a friend.


9)  Leverage your best habits to build confidence and a sense of control

Think about what habits and skills you already have that support you during this time.   Look at what part of your daily or weekly routines are positive and help you be more productive or fulfilled.   Examples could include exercise, going to weekly church services, getting up early, returning all phone calls by the end of day, getting good quality sleep, etc.

The idea is to keep these good things going if you do them already as a way to help you during your transition.  Think about what’s good in your life that gives you joy, energy, a sense of belonging, etc.   These are important to hang on to (assuming they are not part of the change you are trying to make) to give you comfort and sustain you as you make change.


10) Review your progress and make adjustments as needed

Look back at your plan and assess how you are doing against your goals and timeline.    Ask yourself what’s working or not working.    Be honest, but also not so harsh that you end up feeling miserable about yourself.    Ask, what else should I be doing?  Who do I need to talk or get help from?   What should I continue doing?   Do I need to adjust my expectations or timeframe?


11)  Manage your motivation with reminders, rewards, and “pain”

As you move through your change, it’s natural that motivation can ebb and flow.   The trick is to be proactive in managing it.   Remind yourself that others have successfully made the change you are trying to make.

Make a list of all the actions you’ve taken to make the change as way to remember that you aren’t just sitting around doing nothing to help yourself.

In addition, try giving yourself small bursts of pleasure or “pain”.  Pain is simply taking away something pleasurable or adding in something you perceive as unpleasant (e.g., doing more sit ups, eating more green vegetables, etc.).

If you are doing well, then reward yourself with something that feels good (but in moderation, and not with something you are trying to eliminate).  If you aren’t making the progress you want, then give yourself a dose of the unpleasant item.  For maximum benefit, decide on your rewards and pain items ahead of time so you have them to look forward to (rewards) or work hard to avoid (pain).


12) Keep the faith

Remember that most success comes with some bumps along the way. Things may take longer than expected, you make slip back to old habits temporarily, or you make get hit with unplanned circumstances.  Anticipate that some setbacks or obstacles will happen, and trust that you will move through them.  Stay focused on your destination, keep taking action, and don’t give up. 

DIVE DEEPER:  Gain more clarity and control as you go through a change in your life here so you can feel at your best and move forward.

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