Turning a January “Streak” Into Permanent Change

As one year ends and another begins, many of us are inspired to take stock of the our lives and the year that has come to a close and resolve to make some changes come January 1st. This year is even more interesting as to some, it is the end of one decade and the beginning of another, so it is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the last ten years of your life and set some goals for the month, year, and decade to come. This can be a bit overwhelming as there may be multiple things that you want to work on. Real, long-lasting change takes time and for most of us, suddenly changing multiple things at the same time isn’t sustainable.                          

In keeping with the theme of this month’s issue, why not pick something to do every day in January of 2020 with the goal of turning it into a lifelong change, or at least modifying it into a sustainable change. When deciding which change to implement, perhaps start with a short list of changes (top five?) you wish to make to your life in the next few years. Really dedicate the time to consider how it would look to make each of these changes in your life.

Consider the following:

  1. How will you implement this change? What is a good way to jumpstart it? Make a plan for how you will actually fit it into your day. Is it something you need to schedule? Do you need to move things around in your schedule to fit it in? How will that impact your job/relationship/family/time management?
  2. Will it cost money? How much (ie. new gym membership, equipment/supplies, specialty food items etc.)? Make a budget for each change so you aren’t caught off guard by the cost.
  3. Every change you make in your life will come with obstacles. What will be the obstacles to this change? What will make it hard? Time? Energy? Resistance from other people? Major changes usually require a bit of a shift in your relationships in order to be sustainable. Try to anticipate what these shifts will be and make a backup plan for when things get difficult.
  4. What will be the reaction to this change from the people in your life? Consider telling them about what you are doing and explaining why it’s so important. Maybe there is someone in your life who wants to try this out with you so you have a bit of a “Challenge Buddy”. Likely your whole family will benefit from the change so figure out a way to include them. It’s easier to stay committed and motivated when you have ongoing support.

Once you’ve workshopped every idea on your list, pick one and decide how you will turn the change into your “January Streak”. Will you complete a Whole30 in an effort to eat a cleaner, whole food focused diet? Will you do a walking/challenge where you will go a certain distance every day in an effort to fit exercise into your life? Will you journal everyday for 15 minutes? Meditate daily? Read a chapter of a book every night before bed? Whatever it is, pick the one change that you want to work on first and start by committing publicly and openly so you are less likely to break your commitment. Tell your friends, post it on social media, even document yourself doing said activity. Perhaps you’ll inspire similar change in other people.

The most important (and difficult) step is to complete this challenge (hooray!) and then figure out how to implement it into your life long-term. At the end of January, look back at all the work you’ve done, celebrate your commitment and make a list of all the positive and negative (if any) aspects of the challenge. What worked for you? What didn’t? Maybe you liked the physical effects of exercising daily (more energy, better sleep) but didn’t enjoy running itself so you decide to try something else. Maybe you liked how you felt on the Whole30 but felt it was more sustainable to include some whole grains in your diet as well as some occasional treats. The idea is that you have the opportunity to explore this modification and figure out how to fit it into your life in a way that is both manageable long term and is beneficial to you as an individual. This is not one sized fits all.

Once you’ve been able to implement one change successfully into your life you can get to work on the next change. It might take three months, it might take six, and it might take two years. Change is ongoing, so take it one step at a time.

Happy New Year!