Getting in touch with your emotions can be challenging. One way to explore how you feel about the behavior changes you’re considering is to ask yourself the following questions:
• Why do I want to make this particular change at this point in my life?
• Why is the change I am thinking about important to me?
Your answers will be unique to you. A new grandfather with longstanding diabetes might suddenly recognize his desire to watch his grandchild grow into adulthood. A middle-aged woman struggling with obesity may remember the joy she had when she was fit enough to go horseback riding and discover that, more than anything, she wants to feel that way again. If you can connect the things that are deeply important to you with the lifestyle modifications you wish to make, making those changes will likely be easier and more rewarding.
Once you gain an awareness of what truly motivates you to change, it can be helpful to select some object to symbolize your reason to change or your desired outcome. The object can be anything that is meaningful to you: a photograph of a loved one, a family heirloom, or an inspirational quote. Once you’ve selected an object, performing a simple daily ritual such as briefly looking at or holding the object can serve as a way to repeatedly get in touch with what matters most to you. This simple reminder can help you overcome the obstacles to change that you will encounter along the way.
What, where, and when
When you are ready to adopt a new habit, it is important to identify exactly what you will do differently, where you will do it, and when. If your plan or goal is vague, or if the new habit you want to adopt involves making too many daily decisions, you might be tempted to toss the new lifestyle aside and go back to your old ways. For example, if your goal is to eat less fat and you go to the grocery store with that in mind, what will you buy? The average supermarket offers over 40,000 products for sale, not all of which are low in fat. You will need to read the product label on every item you’d like to buy and decide whether it fits into your meal plan — a task that will quickly become overwhelming.
Alternatively, you could identify lower-fat alternatives to a few, specific foods that you normally buy and put them on your shopping list. For example, 97% fat-free ground turkey could take the place of ground beef, and low-fat plain yogurt might replace the sour cream. Over time, you can make more food substitutions, ultimately lowering the fat content of your meal plan overall.
By simply limiting the number of daily decisions you have to make, including those made at the grocery store, you will be more successful at adopting any new habit.
Few people would attempt to climb Mount Everest unless they had great confidence in their ability to succeed and survive. That same degree of confidence is necessary when making changes in your lifestyle. This is especially important if you have tried to adopt healthier habits in the past and have not attained your goal or been able maintain your new habits over the long term.
The questions in “Rate Your Readiness to Change” can help you assess your potential success with any new routine. They ask you to rate how important it is for you to make a particular change in your life at this time and how confident you are that you can carry out the necessary steps. If you discover you are trying to change something that is really not that important to you right now, focus on something else that is. Likewise, if you don’t have much confidence that you will succeed, alter your plan in a way that gives you a greater likelihood of success.