The new-year always seems like a good time to start putting a new plan into action. The problem is, some plans can be so big that it’s a bit scary and seems to hard to even start. How many things decide you were going to do in 2016 on new years eve and haven’t started yet? Changing something significant in your life will require planning and it regularly isn’t just as easy as waking up one day and your life being different. Why not use the start of lent as another incentive to kick-start you improving your life.
Here are my top 10 tips to making a big change in your life:
1. Say out loud why you want to make a change to your life
You can do it to yourself in front of a mirror but actually saying it is often the first step. It’s really easy to keep something tucked away with a half intention that you’re going to do something but unless you acknowledge that you want to make a change and why you’re doing it, the change will never happen. If you have a quick chat with yourself, you may find that the reason you thought you wanted to do something isn’t actually the reason at all. If you feel comfortable enough to do this with an actual other person, this makes it stick even more but don’t feel pressured into revealing your intentions too early if you’re not ready.
2. Decide what it is that you’re trying to achieve
Deciding that you want to make a change is one thing, I want to lose weight, I want to stop smoking, I want to spend more time with my family. But the next part is acknowledging why you want to make that change. Are you doing it for you, for other people, because of something someone said?
Then you have to decide what success looks like for you. Will it be that someone else’s opinion will have changed, will you look different, feel different, have more money at the end of the month?
3. Have a go at thinking about what you will need to do to put that change into practice
This is often the hardest part, making a big change, inevitably means a lot of scary, intimidating changes. Is it something you can do on your own, do you need someone else’s support to make it happen? Will it cost you money or will there be a point in time that it makes sense to make the change?
4. Discuss your plan with a champion
This is the time you should try and talk to someone else. Pick someone that will be supportive, your best friend, your brother or your work colleague may be someone you talk to all the time, but do they have a supportive personality? At this stage, you need someone that isn’t going to judge you but someone who is going to champion you and give you support and even some additional ideas.
If you don’t know who you can talk to, think about finding a life coach. It is often easier to speak to someone who doesn’t know you, someone who doesn’t have any other motive apart from supporting you make your change.
5. Write down your plan
Write things down. It’s amazing how real it can make something feel, kind of like a little contract with yourself. I’m still a fan of a hand-written list but other tools such as Evernote are great if you have a slightly more complex plan which will require things to be cross-referenced.
6. Break it down and set yourself realistic goals along the way
The end goal doesn’t need to be your only goal. There will be points along the progress that you can use as markers. The first step might be joining a gym, or a week with no chocolate, you might start with aiming to finish work at 8pm one night a week but then developing up to every night as your end goal. Think of points that give you a little smile that you’ve made progress and you’re on the way to change.
7. Shower yourself with presents
Who doesn’t like a little present?! If you’re like me, when you go Christmas shopping for every present you buy someone, you buy yourself one too! If you’re making a big change in your life, reward yourself for your successes. When you’ve established your goals, map out a little reward for yourself at each one. Give yourself the incentive to push even harder.
8. Take the first step
There’s only so much planning you can do - unless you physically start, it will only ever be a great plan on paper. This is often the bit that gets put off the longest, when you start it, there is a bigger chance of failure and that is the thing that most people are scared of. Another reason to talk to other people about your plan, if you’ve got at least one champion asking how you’re getting on, you’ve got that bit extra pressure to succeed and sometimes that little bit extra is what you need.
9. Keep a challenge diary
You don’t have to tell the world, but keeping a note of how you’re getting on will give you something to look at when you’re struggling a bit. It can be as simple as a note on your phone or in a diary, it doesn’t have to be a daily emotional checklist, just something to show how far you’ve come. If you’re losing weight, what is your weekly weight, how many days have you not smoked for, how many days did you leave work on time each week?
10. You will relapse, don’t kick yourself
I tell you now, you are likely to fail at some point. I’m not being negative but it’s important to know that you may well have a relapse, you might have a cigarette, you might eat a cake, have a sneaky glass of wine or miss the gym for an extra hour in bed.
Don’t beat yourself up about it, it happens to everyone. The thing to remember is to think about why it happened and try to put a plan into place to stop it happening again.
Got hungry whilst you were out the office – take healthy snacks with you, didn’t go to spin because you were out the night before – plan your nights out and your trips to the gym knowing that you may be too tired to go after a night out.
You will be able to make a change, it’s not easy, it’s not often fun but keep in mind why you are doing it and don’t pressure yourself into making changes too quickly. Remember the tortoise and the hare.
No more ifs or buts