Eight Simple Ways to Make Change Stick

make change stick

When you start out on a new direction in life, you probably feel fired up and enthused, ready to do anything. For a few days, that motivation lasts.

But change is often a long, slow and – let’s face it – rather tedious process.If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ve probably noticed this! And even goals that you might be excited about, like writing a book, require a surprising amount of slogging through on days when you’re unenthused.

So, how can you keep up your motivation over the long-term?

1. Tell Other People About Your Goal.

Accountability is a surprisingly strong force: if you tell everyone that you’re writing a novel, then you’ll be more likely to stick with it past the first few chapters. Plus, telling friends/family about your goal may bring practical help: if your grandma knows you’re trying to lose weight, she’s less likely to insist on baking cakes for you…

2. Write Down Your Reasons. 

Whatever you’re trying to change in your life, you’ve got good reasons to want to. Those might be things you’re trying to avoid (“I don’t want to be in debt any more”) or things that you want to reach or accomplish (“I want to run a marathon”). Whenever your motivation flags, you can re-read your list for a guaranteed boost.

3. Set Mini-Goals and Milestones. 

Some changes take years (perhaps even a lifetime). If you’re struggling to make headway on a huge change, set yourself smaller goals along the way – milestones on your journey. That way, you’ll be able to see the progress that you’re making much more easily. If you’re still struggling, break your small goal into individual steps.

4. Join a Club or Group. 

Perhaps you’re trying to make a huge change in your life, but no-one in your family or friendship circle seems to care. Look for a local (or online) club where you can find like-minded people – they’ll be able to support you both emotionally and practically. For instance, if you’re trying to improve your presentation skills, look for a branch of Toastmasters in your area.

5. Don’t Rely on Willpower Alone. 

Once your initial surge of enthusiasm for a new goal fades, you’ll be relying on willpower to get you through. That takes a lot of mental energy, so look for ways to make things easier – for instance, head to the gym on your way home from work rather than trying to get up the enthusiasm to go back out later.

6. Make Time For It. 

Almost every change requires consistent effort on a regular basis. That means devoting sufficient time to your goal. For instance, if you want to eat more healthily, you need to allow time for buying and preparing food. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up eating junk again. If you’re struggling to find sufficient time, read Creating More Time for some great tips.

7. Track Your Progress. 

Keeping track of your progress doesn’t just help with motivation – it also lets you see what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re studying for a new qualification, keep track of the different things that you’ve learned, and of the techniques you used to learn them. If you’re trying to get fitter and shape up, record details of your workouts and keep a record of your weekly measurements.

8. Ask for Help. 

When you’re implementing major change in your life, it’s a mistake to think you need to go it alone. There are scores of people who can help you – from family and friends to trained professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for some support, advice or assistance. Even if you spend some money hiring a professional to help you, this may well work out cheaper than struggling alone and making mistakes.

What works for you when you’re making big changes? Have you got any more tips to add?

Photo by Aubry Aragon

9 thoughts on “Eight Simple Ways to Make Change Stick”

  1. This are great suggestions! I think continuously working on the change and being in the state of change is the way to keep the change. As soon as you say, “Okay, the change is done, so I am done.” You let all of it go and you let your new habits go. That means you may end up returning to old habits. Remaining in the state of change for a long time gives you the opportunity to incorporate that new change’s habits into your life long enough so that the habits are yours to keep until it’s second nature and you won’t even think of it as a change any longer. Great post!

  2. Hi thank you for sharing this post. This is so important as we are bombarded with ideas and strategies on how to plan and set goals, however the real challenge for people is taking action and being persistent. The challenge is a lot of people give up on the first hurdle. By developing the attitude of staying with the mission is the only way to know how the intention is going to work. There is no easy path, only one which challenges and takes us on a journey to learn how to be our best. Thank you for sharing the simple effective steps and reminding us the importance of getting support from our friends and family. Keep up the good stuff. I love this site, it rocks.

  3. #2 Writing down the reasons, definitely proved to help me. Writing it on a laptop or calendar app is one thing . . .

    writing it on post-its and hanging up pieces of paper with huge font and clear writing stating to “stay focused” helped me a lot.

    And also #8 . . asking for help. Most people are timid, but it’s amazing how grateful people are when you ask them for advice or help. You’re putting them in a position where they feel like you trust them, or look up to them for ideas and advice. Win-win situation for both parties.

  4. Ahhh, #6 is a pretty important one. We must take action on the goals that we set for ourselves. They will never achieve themselves.

    Asking for help is another great one. I am guilty as charged when it comes to this one – I tend to avoid asking for help. I have always been that way. Not sure why. But it’s something that I have to work on :).

    Great info!

  5. I can’t emphasize enough how important point 7 (track your progress) has been for any personal attempts at self improvement.

    I actually use Evernote, so that I can access my notes on progress everywhere.

    If there’s any one takeaway that I would recommend as being the most important out of these eight, it’s definitely to track your progress.

  6. Thank you Ali, this is an excellent list with simple but powerful ideas.

    Change is very difficult and the process of making a major change in your life can be extremely difficult with many daily challenges and obstacles. I think that many people do not realize that, and then when things get tough they give up and quit. So the first thing I would suggest is to acknowledge the fact it will not be easy. You have to be prepared for the bumpy ride. The second thing that is working for me is really dig deeper and understand your true motivation for making this change or achieving that goal. Why is it so important to you? What will go gain by sticking to it? And also consider the price you have to pay to making it happen. There is always a price to pay. Are you sure you are ready to be fully commit to it? Then review this list on a daily basis and remind yourself why you are so motivated to keep going.



  7. Thanks everyone!

    @Marcelina — Great point about embracing the state of change: we’re often too keen to get away from that.

    @Paul and @Yuval — I agree with both of you that there’s no easy path: anything worth doing takes effort and conscious work.

  8. Ali,

    This is a great example to something that I had posted on my Change Your Life Photography just yesterday. I had asked the question, “What do you want to change in your life for 2010?” and the responses have been amazing YET we all seem to forget what we say or want to do after January 1st!

    I have shared this article on my page on Facebook page to my website and even created a short video on YouTube relating to this article for these 8 tips can help those who want to make that change and are looking for ways to accomplish the goals or tasks that they set for 2012.

    Even reading this for to apply for myself, I want to change people’s lives through photography and help people see where they have come from and capture where they are today yet for myself, being motivated to move on with my work at times can be really hard just like you mentioned in #5…Don’t rely on Willpower! This was an eye opener for me.

    Thanks Ali for this!

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