How to Make Changes That Are Permanent

When we want to achieve a goal, we change our behaviors, right? But, how often do those changes stick? Unfortunately, not often enough.

You see it all the time with goals such as losing weight or getting in shape. Sure, it’s easy enough to eat healthy and exercise when our motivation is ultra-high, but eventually our inner fuel runs low and we just go back to our old behaviors – and our old weight. How do we get out of this cycle and make changes that are permanent?

It’s likely that you’ve already learned all the things that don’t work, so here are some things that do (and ultimately get you where you want to be and, perhaps most importantly, keep you there):

Go slow

how to make changes

It’s easy to let your excitement get the best of you when you’re pursuing your goals. You decide to completely overhaul your life and change everything all at once. But, that doesn’t exactly work does it?

When you make numerous changes all at one time, you increase the likelihood that you’re going to feel overwhelmed. You shock your mind and body by putting it into a completely unknown world and make it want to go back to the comforts of what it recognizes. That’s why it is so easy to fall back into old patterns. There is a sense of familiarity there, even if it’s a familiarity that is not the best for you.

Therefore, if you want your changes to stick so that your results are permanent, you’re better off taking it slow. That way you can give your body time to acclimate to the new behaviors and new life without feeling so shocked and out of place.

Think of it as a process similar to when you enter a cold body of water. You wade in slowly so that you can get used to the temperature because it’s much more pleasurable than jumping in head first and dealing with the sudden burst of cold water that overtakes you.

Replace your behaviors as opposed to eliminating them

Let’s say that you want to lose weight so you decide to no longer eat chocolate. What happens? You crave chocolate non-stop, right? It’s all you think about, dream about, and desire. It makes it kind of difficult to not eat any at that point, so you wind up binging on it and feeling nothing but guilt and shame.

The good news is that this is easy to fix. What you need to do is focus more on replacing your behaviors that aren’t getting you closer to your goal instead of trying to eliminate them. Essentially, you still have to satisfy your need, but in a way that doesn’t stop you from achieving whatever it is that you set out to do.

In this case, maybe chocolate calms you when you’ve had a stressful day. Therefore, you’re going to want to come up with something else that satisfies your need (to be calmed) but will lead you closer to your goal (weight loss) than further from it.

Perhaps you decide to go for a walk or call a friend. Or, maybe you take a long, hot bath or snuggle up with a good book. As long as you satisfy the need, you will reduce the craving.

Take 1 step at a time

footprints on the beach

As the old saying goes, the walk of a million miles can only occur one step at a time. The same is true for any change process. If you want to make some new behavior or action stick, you’ll have greater success if you do just one thing at a time.

Keep this thought in mind when you plan your route to your goal. Schedule changes to occur one at a time and get used to them before moving on to the next step. This allows you to focus on what you’re doing and get your mind comfortable with the new action before having to make yet  another life altering change.

In the example of losing weight, maybe this week your goal would be to concentrate solely on eating more veggies. Then, once you feel comfortable at that step, you could focus on drinking more water every day and so on.

Pay attention to your self-talk

how to make changes

When you constantly tell yourself that you’re not going to succeed, is it really any surprise when you don’t? It shouldn’t be because you’re already accepted that you won’t. That is why you have to be acutely aware of how you speak to yourself when implementing a permanent change.

If you notice that you’re being negative about the process or your ability to achieve it, it’s time to replace that language with something more positive and encouraging. Admit to yourself that you may struggle but don’t beat yourself up for times when you take steps back; which leads us to the next point…

Prepare to take steps backward

This is especially important if you are an all-or-nothing thinker. I used to fall into that category and I did great as long as I was ‘perfect’ but one slip up sent me cascading back down to the bottom of the hill, undoing all the work that I had done up to that point.

You have to expect that there will be times you falter. After all, you can’t change a habit that you’ve held for years and years without taking a step backward every now and again. The key is to not let a lapse turn into a relapse.

Look at it this way, if you fell down a flight of stairs and landed halfway down, would you get up and fling yourself down the rest of them? Of course not. So, why would you do the same when you’re trying to reach your goal and stumble a little bit backward?

Don’t let failure be an option


If you are working toward a goal and allow failure to be an option, you’re almost guaranteeing that you will not succeed. That’s because you’ve given yourself an out before you even started.

When you want to succeed at making permanent changes, you need to accept no other alternative. Don’t stop until you’ve arrived at the destination and, if you get detoured, find an alternate route. Swerve to miss the potholes and keep moving forward as the only way you’ll fail is if you actually quit trying.

Set yourself up for success

If you are continually at conflict with your surroundings, it might be difficult to stay focused about achieving your goals and ambitions. Therefore, you will have an easier time if you arrange things so that making good decisions is simple. For instance, if your objective is to make more money, keep a babysitter on call for times when overtime is offered. If your objective is to eat healthier, always have ready-to-eat healthy snacks on available so that picking them doesn’t require much thought or effort.

Permanent changes take time, energy, and effort to make and keep. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be there soon enough.

Share your goal with a few trusted people in your life and ask them to keep encouraging and supporting you until you reach your goal.

We all need a little bit of help from time to time to help motivate us to reach our goals. The following quotes have been compiled with this in mind, to inspire you and spur you on.

About the author

Christina DeBusk

Changing careers mid-life from law enforcement to writing, Christina spends her days helping others enrich their businesses and personal lives one word at a time.

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