Dropping ten pounds is one thing. Keeping it off can be an entirely different story. How many new “habits” have you started, only to lose sight of them a few weeks down the road?
It’s not very sexy, but the most consistently neglected part of the change process is that pesky phase of "maintenance." No matter how perfectly tailored the new habit or behavior or routine is that we put into place, it's new, and new patterns are more fragile than whatever old established one we are trying to eliminate.
If you don’t solidify your ability to maintain and start with a plan that will continue to motivate you and renew your momentum, your chances of creating a lasting habit are slim. Whether it’s healthy eating, exercise, a new stress reduction routine, or learning to put yourself first, a new habit and a habit that lasts are two different things. Permanent change rarely happens instantly.
For instance, slimming down or creating peace with food usually involves a lot more than throwing out the junk food, and it typically involves some bumps, hurdles, and challenges. It’s not about getting it perfect, it’s about continuing to imperfectly move forward. Creating any new behavior or routine is something we do over and over again. It becomes more solidified each time we do it and each time we surmount a challenge or a difficulty in sticking with it. Every time we get back on the horse we've fallen off of, the change becomes that much more solid.
Many of my clients come to me after significant periods in their lives when they've walked on the road they want to be on. They may have had periods when they've started to make the change they crave. They were working out regularly or they were losing weight. They had started the novel they wanted to write. They felt in charge of their life and they were on the road to pursuing their particular dream.
And then something happened.
Their focus became less intense. Their routine became less consistent. Something (it's always something) came up. And one day they woke up and realized that the new behavior or routine or change wasn't in place anymore. They were back to doing things the "old way." And now they are feeling defeated and tired and they have a bit (or a lot) less hope then they did before. They may even be feeling guilty and mad at themselves which makes things even harder.
Change is not a one shot deal.
You probably know how it works. You've made a successful change. You feel proud. You feel like celebrating. You've worked really hard and maybe you decide you really don't need to be quite so disciplined anymore. You start to slack off or you loosen the reins a bit. Is this a bad thing? Haven't you earned it? How do you know?
Maintenance is not something that happens automatically–AND maintenance is the stage where all the hard work can pay off, or can start to unravel.
Working at maintenance isn't as dramatic or visibly rewarding as starting something new. Because "maintaining" is the goal, you may not be seeing the motivating external changes or smaller numbers on the scale in the same way you saw them when you began to make a change. You may get so comfortable with the new change that you forget the state that motivated you to change in the first place. It's easy to lose momentum.
Putting a firm foundation for long term maintenance in place is crucial. Be honest with yourself about what’s likely to throw you off track. Ask yourself what you need to continue to maintain momentum and plan proactively. Have a plan for “restarting” if it feels like you’ve stopped. And don't hesitate to get the support you need to create the long term strategies that will work for you.
Take a look at your goals and take a look at the previous paragraph. Write down the challenges you should anticipate, the strategies you will use to stay motivated, your plan for restarting after a rough patch, and the support system you are relying on. If you find any holes, decide how you will begin to address them—today.
What could you accomplish in the next four weeks? The THRIVE Formula™ 4 Weeks to Unleashing Your Inner Champion is my success kit for creating your unique long term success blueprint. This step-by-step 4 week program gives you the tools to proactively address time challenges, old habits and mindsets that may sabotage you or keep you stuck, motivational challenges, stress, and the hard parts of change. Learn how to leverage what comes easily for you, fix your energy leaks, and prioritize what’s important to you in a way that lasts.