Making Changes That Last

There is little reward in making changes if the changes don’t stick.

Scientists who study change know that mastering the phase of “maintenance” is a crucial part of making any successful change permanent. If we don’t develop the skills, the structures, the accountability to keep up with the changes we are making, we won’t create changes that last. We become like the yo-yo dieter who has lost the same 20 pounds ten different times.

The maintenance phase of change can begin anywhere from 2-4 months after the initial behavior changes have begun to feel comfortable (the new exercise habit has come to feel routine, you aren’t craving cigarettes anymore). Unfortunately, as we get more comfortable with change, we start to relax our vigilance and forget that we are still vulnerable to the old behavior.

Threats to maintaining change that you’ll want to watch out for:

Social Pressures: “Everybody else is ordering dessert. I’ve been doing great, I can afford to relax my rules a bit.”
Over Confidence: “I’ve got this under control, I haven’t had a drink in two weeks.”
which leads to . . .
Creating Temptation: “There’s no reason not to start hanging out at Happy Hour again–I miss my friends. I’ll just have club soda and I won’t eat any of the free appetizers.” Intentionally exposing yourself to things you want to avoid is not a sign of strength.
Self blame and self-critical attitudes: This one surprises people–but it’s huge. Studies show that the severity of misplaced self-blame is one of the best predictors of failure to maintain changes. Frequent, inappropriate self criticism backfires and negatively interferes with our ability to make changes. Learning to be curious about why you got stuck or relapsed or “forgot” your plan to change is infinitely more productive than getting mad at yourself.

Take good care,


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