Have you ever met anyone who says, “Once I decide to do something, I just do it”? Nike’s “just do it” attitude pervades our culture.  But if we all could “just do it”, many people in the helping profession would be out of a job. Wouldn’t we all like to be that person, since we would be doing all the things that we know we “should” be doing to maximize our health?

It’s just that simple… Not!  

In the U.S., less than a third of Americans meet both aerobic and strength-building guidelines, and that number goes down with age and in certain regions of the country. Only 1 in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables. Many of us don’t get enough sleep or take enough time to unplug. And the thing is, most of us know we don’t do enough of these things, but we aren’t sure how to change. Or we try to change, but it just doesn’t stick. 

As a therapist and Board Certified and Wellness Coach at LynLake Centers for Wellbeing, I love helping people make changes that improve their health and quality of life. To help you succeed with your goals, here are 8 of my favorite tips for making lasting change: 

1. Find Your Why

Without a powerful reason as to why you want to attain a particular goal, you will not have the stamina to take the daily steps you need to overcome obstacles.  You will be more likely to give in to your impulses and revert to those old behaviors that keep you from achieving your goal. 

Some questions to get at your Why:

  • How will these changes positively affect my life?
  • What will my life be like if I don’t make these changes?
  • How will I feel about myself if I am successful?

Create reminders of your Why

How will you remember your “why” when life gets hard and you get off track?  For some, keeping on hand  symbols such as photos, words, or phrases that encapsulate why you are making these changes can help bolster your motivation when you are struggling. 

Many of my clients have photos of their kids and grandkids as motivation to stay on top of their health so they can play on the playground with them and live to see their families grow.

2. SMART Goals are Smart

SMART goals are actions that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based.  Let’s say your overarching goal is to lower blood pressure and bring down cholesterol.  One way to do this is to get more physically active.  A SMART Goal approach might be to exercise by going for walks at least 2 times a week for 30 minutes each time within a month.  You might start at once a week for 20 minutes and work your way up to twice a week in steps within that month. 

3. Plan for Obstacles

Life happens. You get busy, you don’t sleep well for a couple of nights, you forget, you get bored or you simply don’t feel motivated that day. In other words, you are human. To make sure you don’t get derailed by unexpected bumps in the road, try the following: 

  • Take an inventory of possible obstacles
  • Brainstorm potential solutions
  • Identify the cause(s) of the setbacks. Sometimes what gets in the way of following through with an action may not be obvious at first.  Let’s say you plan to get up early to walk.  The night before, you didn’t get to bed early enough because you ate dinner late and you wanted some time to yourself. You ate dinner late because you didn’t leave work on time.  You may need to backtrack to get to the heart of what kept you from getting up on time to go on that walk. Track those decisions down the line and finding ways to intervene earlier can be key to getting the sleep you need to get up to take that walk.

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4. Create Structure

  • Track your progress such as keeping a log or checking off days on a calendar when you are successful.
  • Using the above SMART goal as an example, you might create a calendar reminder on those days you plan to walk. Blocking off time in your calendar is a sign of commitment.
  • Pair up a new habit with something that you typically do during the day and multi-task.  Let’s stick with the walking goal.  For example, you might split up your lunch and take a 20-minute walk at work after you eat.  Then you might take a 10-minute walk after dinner with the dog. Both times are paired up with activities you do most every day.

5. Find an Accountability Buddy

Most of us are more motivated when we can do things with others.  Find someone who has a similar goal as you, and see if you can work towards it together . If that isn’t possible, ask a friend or your partner to be your check-in to let them know that you were successful or not each week.  

6. Mix it Up. Make it Fun

Some of us don’t like to get on a treadmill.  How can you make attaining your goal fun?  Maybe walking isn’t your thing.  What sounds fun?  Is it taking a barre class or doing yoga?  Could walking be fun if you take different routes or listen to music or an audiobook while walking?  Doing the same thing day after day can get boring.  How might you mix it up so you don’t get bored?

7. Focus on Actions Rather than Outcomes

Many people have the goal of losing weight as an example. Even getting to a specific blood pressure or cholesterol number is not something we necessarily have complete control over.  Getting healthier can include feeling better about yourself and feeling more vital, energetic, and embodied.  What you do have control over are the actions you can take to get to a more healthy self such as getting more physical activity, more sleep, and a more plant-based diet.  So ask yourself, what are other measures of success–ones you do have more control over?

8. Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Shame is the enemy of change. Shame can make you feel unworthy or unable to make the changes in your life to feel better. Instead of beating yourself up, try this instead: 

  • Get curious. What got in the way of success today?
  • Think of change as a wavy path that has some dead ends.  Sometimes it feels like one step forward and two steps back.  Expect that as normal.
  • Have an experimenter’s attitude.  Think of your strategies as experiments.  They might not work for you or, perhaps, they don’t work for you all the time. Part of the planning process is to come up with alternate strategies.  
  • Know when to ask for help.  Sometimes some more deep-seated issues could get in the way such as blocking negative beliefs and self-concepts or trauma which could cause you to feel stuck.  
  • Have compassion for yourself.  Self-compassion does not equal throwing up your hands and giving excuses.  It is accepting what is in the present and acknowledging the challenges so you can get back on track.

Making changes in your life is a process. Expect to experience ruts, missteps, obstacles, and disappointments, because change is hard!  If you can hold the attitude that change is growth–no one stays the same–you will begin to understand how rewarding this process will be.

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today






Written by: Sharon Burris-Brown, LICSW, National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, and Certified Parent Coach