I tend to view the New Year as an opportunity for a fresh start. It gives me the chance to erase all the bad food I have eaten and drinking I have done over the last six weeks and gives me the space in which to reflect. I believe that we all do this, whether on a birthday or during a major life change or just with the arrival of January. My question then becomes, how do you make this process one that gives you the opportunity to genuinely grow versus time spent that goes nowhere? The question I am asking is; how do you make real, long-lasting change?

I recently read a book that says change can take 6-8 months. That explains for me why diets don’t work. You have to be prepared to get back on the wagon over and over again, remembering that it takes consistent effort to really change behavior and create new pathways in the brain.

I would love to write the steps to lasting change. I would love to provide the formula for success, but the truth is that the process is different for everyone. We can all however put some systems in place that increase the likelihood of success. Give these a try:

1. Ask yourself if you are really ready to change. If the answer is yes, proceed to step two, if the answer is no, keep doing what you are doing, but remember, you are not helping anyone if you spend time complaining about what you are not ready to change.

2. What has worked in the past? Are you an “all or nothing” person or do you need your change in small manageable spoonfuls? Answering these questions can help create a plan.

3. Make a plan. Write it down. Create SMARTER goals (Specific, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic, Time Bound, Exciting, and Relevant).  Most goal setting is done using SMART goals, I have added the exciting and relevant because I think that makes it more personal, and it has got to be personal, this is your life! You will never stick to your plan if you are not excited about the direction and if it is not relevant to you.

4. Build time in to your plan for review. How will you know where you are going if you don’t evaluate progress?

5. Reward your efforts. Are you trying to change your ways in a personal relationship and your goal is to go two weeks without losing your temper? If you meet your goal, reward yourself with some quiet time, a new book, or a walk. Pick a reward that will motivate you to keep going.

Remember, change is never easy, so cut yourself some slack if you fall off the wagon. Get back on and try again.

What is your successful change story?