Implementing change: 3 things to consider when making lifestyle enhancements

I think we all attempt some kind of healthy lifestyle change at some point in the year.

Some of us attempt this for the first few weeks in the New Year, while others make changes going into summer or even the fall seasons. It is, however, safe to say that we all attempt lifestyle changes at some point or another – and most of us have zero follow through with the goals we set.

If you’re anything like me though, you probably have some habits that are making you want to make a shift for the better.  Whether that’s drinking less coffee, spending less on takeout, or making some changes to your professional life & or workout routine. We all look for ways to improve, and today we’re going to set you up for success… so your follow through to make said changes are just that…. concrete follow through, that provide you with the results you’re looking for in your lifestyle changes.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Deciding you need a change – The Driving Force or the ‘Unfreezing Stage’

I’ve said this before – and it’s something I like to stand by as a firm standard and structure. You need to have a driving force to implement change.

Lewin’s Change Theory, a utilised medical theory used by nurses describes this initial stage as the unfreezing stage, which is  “the process which involves finding a method of making it possible for people to let go of an old pattern that was somehow counterproductive.”

People won’t make a change unless they really want to. What do I mean by this, specifically? I mean that people can’t be forced into change. If you want to make a change in your life, you have to decide that you want it, and made a decision to follow through and want to see change and results. Here are a few things you can ask yourself before implementing change:

  1. Write yourself a letter – If you want to change a habit, write yourself a letter from your future self. Paint the picture of what this change looks like… so you have more motivation to get there.
  2. Make a list – Creating a list of reasons you’d like to break this habit will help you see the good out of breaking said habit. It’ll also help you easily see why you actually want to shift your life… for the better.

Lifestyle changes are very difficult and come with a lot of work. But once you’ve done the initial legwork of deciding you’d like to make changes, you’re halfway through the battle.

Deciding you want to make a change is the first step… and one of the biggest steps. Once you’ve created the driving force behind change, you’ve made the first strategic moves, of many.

Sticking to your guns – The Restraining or the ‘Change’ Stage

To implement proper change, you need to stick to your guns. In order to see long-lasting changes, you need to stick to your guns and follow through with the rules you’ve set for yourself.

Here’s an example… I recently ran a half marathon. It was my third, which means I should have been prepared, and knew what I signed up for. The marathon itself was subpar, and I finished outside of my goal time, and at the end of that race, I decided that I wanted my next one to be successful, which meant I needed to start a harder, more focused training regiment.

Well… this lasted all of a month – and with my next race around the corner, I fear that it’ll have a similar outcome to my last.

So let’s talk about restaining, or the change stage. Lewin’s Change Theory explains this second stage as the stage used for people to adapt to their desired change, and eventually find a binding equilibrium towards said change. It’s meant to “decrease the restraining forces that negatively affect the movement from the existing equilibrium.” Here are some ways to help you better stick to your guns:

  1. Create a schedule – build yourself a workout schedule, meal plan or even a countdown. Having things planned out makes it easier for us to achieve in the long run.
  2. Crete some healthy competition with friends – Is your friend also quitting smoking? Great – build some sort of healthy competition to help you both get there. It’ll be fun, keep you accountable and help you with motivating yourself.

Basically, the restraining stage is focused on the ‘re-training’ component of your brain. You will need to re-train yourself to make sure you stick to your guns and follow through with the results you’d like to see. This can be seen through different thoughts, methodology, and feelings. This can take a while, but its the biggest hurdle to get past.

Finding Balance – The Equilibrium or the ‘Re-freezing’ stage 

If you’ve made it this far, then you’ve surpassed me.

The Equilibrium stage or the ‘re-freezing stage’ is “finding a combination of the first two methods.”

You want to take this change and make it a new habit. This new desire to be more productive, eat better or even work out more needs to now be your new normal. The theory also explains that “The refreezing stage is establishing the change as the new habit, so that it now becomes the “standard operating procedure.” Without this final stage, it can be easy for someone to go back to old habits.” Here are a few ways to help you keep the balance:

  1. Have a cheat day – Have a day where you indulge in things you’ve so strictly been avoiding. Whether that be relaxing and watching a movie instead of working out… or having an awesome meal. Give yourself one day a week, or one day every few weeks to indulge and reward yourself.
  2. Reward yourself when you’ve reached a new milestone – If you’re quitting smoking, or drinking then consider celebrating little milestones. After 6 months of being cigarette free, use the money you’ve saved to plan a trip! Be nice to yourself, because you deserve it.

Studies say that it takes the average person roughly a month to break their habits. Once you’ve broken those habits, you just need to work on keeping this new change as the primary focus – and not fall back into old trends. It won’t be easy… but considering you’ve worked this hard, it’s the best stage to be in.

Summary

Change is hard… but it’s possible.

Making changes to your lifestyle might be one of the hardest things… but you know better than me that it’s probably worth it on more than one level.

Whatever your change may be, decide why it’s important for you, and go at it full force. It takes hard work, and a lot of dedication… but man once you’re there you won’t be disappointed with the outcome or the work you’ve put in.

Take these steps, and figure out what your personal change will be. Whether it’s healthier eating, working out more, being less distracted in the office, or putting more work into your work… figure out how this will look for you – and giver.

With a little hard work, and dedication – you can be on the path to a better you.

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Elysse Bujold has a background in digital marketing. Having started her career at Disney Interactive Studios, where she grew on a project team advancing initiatives for the company, today she has been driving marketing strategies and initiatives to help grow businesses.

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