You wake up one morning and decide something in your life needs to change. You have been thinking about it for a while and suddenly you decide today is the day. How do you make the change?
Firstly, you need to know, what it is you need to change. Is it a big or small change? A small change may simply be a matter of substituting one thing for another e.g. having a glass of water instead of wine during the middle of the week. Other changes may have a bigger impact such as focusing on recovery and improving your mental health e.g. drug and alcohol rehabilitation or eating disorder recovery.
Whatever the reason you want to make the change, it is important to realise the benefits that you got from the behaviour / behaviours, you want to change. If it was a coping strategy, albeit an unhealthy one, you need to find a healthy option to substitute for it. There are no right and wrong answers here. Get support if necessary, do whatever you need to, to find alternative behaviours.
Break your change down to make it clear and easier to start. I like the What, When, Where, Why and How method. I find it makes planning simple and helps with accountability—I can easily see if I have completed the change. For example, using the initial change of wine into water, the plan is:
WHAT – Stop drinking wine mid week without a special occasion to celebrate
WHEN – Mondays through to Thursdays
WHERE – At home
WHY – It has become a habit and my body will function and sleep better without it
HOW – Drink sparkling mineral water instead using a splash of lemon or lime to make it special
If the areas you need to change are broad, break them down into smaller sections. Keep a list and prioritise which changes to make first. Focus on 1-2 areas at a time, as spreading your focus too thin means that you won’t change anything. It takes 3 weeks to change a habit, so practice each area for a month. This way you have the 3 weeks to change the habit and an extra week to maintain your behaviour change. Adding a few small changes together over a month—makes a significant difference to your life.
By constantly reviewing where you want to go and what is holding you back—you are able to keep your life moving forward in the direction you want it to go. Using these skills, when you get to a certain point and you find that life isn’t what you thought it would be—you can simply change direction by making a new plan.