Making It Stick – 5 tips on how to actually make the changes you want in your life

Making It Stick – 5 tips on how to actually make the changes you want in your life

Books, magazines, online articles, and even therapists are chock full of life advice: “10 Tips to Manage Holiday Stress”, “5 Best Ways to Get Organized Now!” “How to Talk So Your Teenager Will Listen”.

The advice is (usually) good but for some reason, even though the information makes sense, you never actually use the information, at least not consistently. But you’re still drawn to those same type of articles or you keep going back to your therapist hoping something will stick.

The fact that you keep researching the same subjects or that you keep your appointments with your therapist indicates you have hope. And trust me, no change occurs without hope.

So, with that in mind, and with the hope that this may help, here are my Top Tips to Making It Stick.

  1. Beware of information overload. Break the tip list into manageable chunks. Rather than adding all 10 new stress management skills to your life, chose one or two at a time and practice those consistently before you add more. And if you’re like me, you’ll chose the easiest ones or the ones that are closest to what you already do to start with. That’s okay.
  2. Recognize that change can be awkward and uncomfortable. This is especially true when you’re making relationship changes. If the article you’ve read or the therapist you’re seeing is suggesting particular changes in the language or communication style you use with your child, for instance, it will feel weird to communicate in that new way.

    For example, parents I’ve coached sometimes struggle with changing the way they get their child to pick up their toys. I encourage parents to instruct rather than ask their children to pick the toys. Parents who are used to saying, “Can you pick up your toys?” may have a hard time with “Please pick up your toys.”

    Couples who tend to argue, blame, and use accusatory “you” statements such as “You never pick up your clothes!” may struggle with more effective “I” statements such as “I get really frustrated when I have to pick up your clothes off the floor”. The solution to this awkwardness and discomfort is to acknowledge it and practice your way through it. Which leads us to tip #3.

  3. Practice, practice, practice. Just like learning any new skill such as a sport, a musical instrument, or how to write a blog, life hacks take practice. Practice comes through doing but it also comes through visualizing yourself using the new technique successfully.

    Take a few minutes every day to actually picture yourself using the new tip you want to try in the situation you want to try it.

    For example, you’ve decided to add deep breathing to your anger management repertoire because every article you read about anger management says deep breathing is a great technique. Every day, yes, every day, visualize an anger or frustration provoking situation (with as many details as possible) and then visualize yourself using the deep breathing technique you’ve read about and visualize the technique working.

    In your visualization, you become calmer, you settle down, and you make better choice about what to do and say. (See why I’m suggesting choosing just one or two things to start with?)

  4. Be prepared for pushback or resistance. Our own life habits, relationship patterns, and personality habits will all conspire together within us to resist the changes we’re trying to implement (See tip #2 – change feels awkward).

    Even people we love, who say they’re supportive of us, may unwittingly sabotage our efforts if they feel threatened by the change. A classic example of this is when we are trying to lose weight or add healthy habits to our life. Our spouse or significant other may sabotage our efforts by keeping our favorite ice cream in the freezer. Or they always seem to have to work late and can’t keep the kids on the evenings we’d planned to go to the gym.

    They not trying to see us fail, necessarily. They’re just uncomfortable with the changes we’re making.

    Another example I see often is when a teenager is working on their anger management. They may make great progress and go 3 or 4 weeks without a violent outburst when before, they had outbursts almost daily. But the first time they lose their temper, their parent says, “I knew it wouldn’t last! You’re just like you’ve always been!” The parent is anxious that the teen is regressing and lashes out rather than recognizing that slips will happen.

  5. Give yourself credit. Each time you take any positive step no matter how small, try a new tip successfully, or actually experience the change you’re after, give yourself credit!

    We spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for not sticking to a diet, losing our temper with loved ones, or stressing out over small things. Giving yourself credit helps you recognize the small (or big) improvements you’re making all along the way to improving your health, your functioning, and your relationships.

There are many, many other tips for successfully making changes but let’s just break it into chunks and start with these few.

If you’d like more information and or feel you could use more support in making a few changes in your life, contact us here at FACES.

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