7 Essential Steps to Making Change Real. The concept of change is an essential aspect of what it means to be human, whether it is our own personal goal for self-improvement, or the goal implemented by a loved one, change is all around us, and often a desired experience. Change often represents something new and fresh, better than what was before. Change means trying something new, which can be a scary realization, and it can also bring up fears of failing, or not following through on what you set out to improve. Perhaps you have tried in the past to make this specific desired change, but in the end you went back to your old routine. Whether you have been longing to improve your sex life with your partner, or increase the amount of quality time you spend with your spouse, you know what you want but you haven’t yet been able to get there on your own. The following steps provide a fresh outlook on change, with tools to help you make your new changes long lasting ones.

1) Accountability- Essential Steps to Making Change Real Start your desire for change with making it real. The more you surround yourself with your goal, the more it will be a permanent part of your daily living. Making yourself accountable for change can mean many different things, such as keeping a daily journal of your efforts, or telling someone close to you. By stating your plan for change through writing, or through another person, you are making yourself responsible for making the change happen. For some, telling someone your plans for change is a motivator to make the change happen, because now someone knows, and this very well may follow up on your progress for change. However, for those who think telling someone may make them less accountable, try keeping a daily journal of your efforts and what you are finding.

2) Choose Achievable Goals- Essential Steps to Making Change Real Stay specific, and avoid goals that are too broad. The more specific in your goals, the better chance you have achieving this goal. For example, if you were to pick happiness as your goal. There are too many variables with being happy, even if you specify each little step you believe will get you happiness. Try and pick goals you know from experience, or for a fact what the results will be. Instead of happiness, other achievable goals that may contribute to one’s happiness may include, increasing physical activity/working out more, plan for social events, eat better, get more sleep, etc. Be realistic about time, as well. The time it takes to achieve it’s goal will vary in the amount of time and effort that is required. Do research to confirm that the amount of time you’re giving yourself is enough.

3) Make Sure Your Goals Are Measurable- Essential Steps to Making Change Real It’s an essential motivator to pick goals that you can measure, and track the gradual progress throughout the process. Without a way to measure your goal, how will you know if your are on the right track, and when your goal is complete? Picking goals that include a quantity work. For example, “I will have one movie date per week with my spouse.” Or, “I will be less critical to my partner on a daily basis by following the 5 to 1 rule: for every negative comment, I must have given 5 positive comments. Such goals are great ways to help you always knowing your progress.

4) Self-Advocacy- Essential Steps to Making Change Real Identify what you want for yourself first. Then identify what you need from your environment to nudge you along. If you chose a support system (group, or selective family/friends) advocate for yourself as to how you want the feedback. For example, should your supports ask you about your goals and efforts on a weekly basis, or do you want to be the one to initiate such conversations? Identify what you need. Teach friends and families about how you want the feedback. Whether you want your support system to ask you about your goals and efforts on a weekly basis, or you want to be the one to initiate such conversations. If you recognize that the social aspect of the support system is not a good fit for you, perhaps you prefer a more private, individual path for change, such as journaling, or an online message board where you can choose if and when you would write a comment. It all depends on the type of learner your are.

5) Monitor Your Change- Essential Steps to Making Change Real Monitoring is a great way to help you look at the differences in your efforts for change, whether it’s been 5 days or 5 years from when you made the change. Methods of monitoring include keeping a blog, audio or videotaping, attending therapy, talking to friends. Journaling your day to day experiences of working towards your goals is a great way to track your inner thoughts. It’s a great resource to go back to and review how you handled certain obstacles. Having detailed records of your process with working towards change is a great way to continue your path of improvement, and a great way to learn about what is working, and what needs tweaking. It’s similar to a therapist who takes notes for each session, or a surgeon who reviews videotaped surgeries. It’s a great chance to step back and review your process from a more observational standpoint.

6) Identify the obstacles: Who is going to lose with these changes? Essential Steps to Making Change Real Other people outside of your relationship will be impacted by your change, as well as your journey to make the change. A major key to long term change is about making the time, not finding the time. If it is your relationship that you are working on and you are now making the time for, there is going to be something or someone else who is being placed on the back burner in order for you to make time for your goals. It may be family gatherings, a decrease in spending time with friends or co-workers, or just less accessibility to you when you are home with your partner. Give permission for others to experience negative change in response to yours. Your job is not to fix someone else, it is to fix you. It’s okay, these are natural consequences to implementing a long term goal.

7) Change Doesn’t Happen Over Night- Essential Steps to Making Change Real As cliche as it may sound, change is a process and can take time. During this time, expect to learn from your successes, and from your mistakes. Just because you “relapsed” and did not work towards your goal for a week, doesn’t mean you have to call the whole thing off. Better to work towards some change then none at all.

Keep in mind, it’s not just about the desired results that will give you the positive change you are looking for. It’s also the journey and the steps that you took on your way to the change that will positively impact you forever.