Make A Plan

Many of us have experienced trying to change daily habits to healthier ones, feeling like “this time it’s going to work”, and then finding that the healthy behavior “drops off” and we feel as if we’ve failed.  (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?)  One reason is trying to tackle too much change, rather than taking one small step at a time. It makes common sense that a very small change has a higher chance of success, right?
Here’s another approach:  Choose one very small change, and make a plan to practice that change every day.  Several suggestions and resources are below. If you have others to suggest, feel free to Contact Us and let us know.
Choosing the Size of Change
If setting a goal that’s too large or broad may set us up for failure, how can we tell what size change to start with? 
The best answer will obviously vary from person to person and from situation to situation.  The process, though, is the same:  Start with a change where you think you can experience success. If you can maintain that new habit, great! If you were unsuccessful, try a smaller change.  Re-size until you succeed.
Once you’ve been able to practice one small change and maintain that new habit, then build on just a little more. Establish each new level as a daily habit – giving yourself enough time to form a new habit – and then move on.
Success will lead to success!
Motivation to Overcome Obstacles
We lead busy lives, and there are many reasons we could fall back on to not develop healthier habits. “I don’t have time.” “There’s too much else going on in my life.” “I’ve tried before and it didn’t work.” “I’ll start after (some upcoming event).”
Here’s a thought that may help: “No one ever said it would be easy … But there’s plenty to say about how much it will be worth it.”
You deserve to feel as healthy as possible, have the energy to enjoy your life and succeed in your work, and be around with and for those you care about. Healthier habits can help you on your road to those goals.
Have you ever accomplished something else that was challenging?  Of course you have!  You can achieve healthier habits.
More about Behavior Change
There are many different approaches to changing habits.  One resource describes stages of behavior change, which may be helpful: Changing Your Habits: Steps to Better Health
If you’re interested in learning about NIH-supported research on behavior change, check out the many topics explored by the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research.
Tracking Your Progress
Having a record of your progress can help establish a new habit as well as highlight possible obstacles. If there are days when you can’t maintain your new habit, what was going on that day that stood in your way – and can you overcome that obstacle?
Tracking your progress can take any form that works for you – for example:
  • A simple chart like this one
  • Markings on your daily calendar
  • Any one of a number of available apps on a smartphone or tablet
And P.S. – If writing down or electronically recording your progress sounds like one more chore, challenge yourself to be creative in tracking your progress. Toss a paperclip in a jar each time you do your new daily habit? Stick a colored pin onto your bulletin board each day you succeed? 
Whatever method you choose, you can watch your success grow, day by day.
Practical Help​
Practical factors can help ease your way into healthier habits.  Two examples:
  • Structure your personal environment to help you practice your new habit. Want to eat healthier snacks and cut back on soft drinks? Make sure fruits and veggies are rinsed and ready-to-eat in the office refrigerator, and have natural flavorings available for water. Want to walk at lunchtime? Bring sneakers, a hat, and/or anything else you would need to the office, so they’re ready-to-go.
  • Enlist others – as company or cheerleaders. Being accountable to others can help ensure that even on days when you might give yourself an excuse, you’ll push through on your new healthy habit … and be glad you did.