Deciding to make healthy changes is a big step. Maybe you're feeling hopeful, excited, and ready for the change. Or maybe you're nervous or worried that you'll let yourself and others down if you don't succeed.
You're not alone. Many people feel these emotions when they're thinking about change. It's common. And it can sometimes help you prepare and get ready to make a plan.
Having a plan—and staying focused on it—can be a big help.
Here are some ideas for making a plan.
- Think about what the change will mean to you.
Ask yourself some questions, and write down your thoughts.
- What exactly do I want to change?
- What are my personal, most powerful reasons for wanting this change?
- What will my life look like when I've made the change?
- Think about what's worked before.
If you've tried to change, cut back, or quit before now, think about that time. You can learn from your past.
- What helped? Plan to use those skills again this time.
- What got in the way of your success? These things are called barriers. Plan for ways to deal with them.
- Create goals you can achieve.
There are ways to make a big goal easier.
- Break your big goal into smaller, short-term goals. Make these small steps specific and within your reach—things you know you can do. They're what keep you going from day to day.
- Set a date for reaching your big goal. Choose a time that doesn't include events that can trigger slip-ups, like holidays, social events, and high-stress times.
- Reward yourself for successes along the way.
- If you need to, make small changes to your short-term goals as you move forward.
Here's an example of small steps for a long-term goal to quit smoking:
- Step for week 1: I will stop smoking while I drive and after meals.
- Step for week 2: I will cut back from 20 cigarettes a day to 10 cigarettes a day.
- Step for week 3: I will cut back to one pack of cigarettes a week.
- Plan for barriers.
These questions can help you plan for things that might get in your way. Write down your ideas.
- In my daily routine, what things can trigger the behavior I want to change? How can I be ready for these triggers?
- What changes in my daily routine can help me avoid or resist these triggers?
- Will it help me to spend less time with people who might trigger the behavior? What about spending time with people who don't trigger the behavior?
- How will I cope with cravings?
- How will I deal with barriers like cost, time, or fear of failure?
If you think you'll feel cravings when you cut back on or stop using tobacco, a drug, or alcohol, talk to your doctor ahead of time. Medicine can help you control your body's cravings. For example, medicine for quitting smoking can help with cravings and stress and can double your chances of quitting.1
- Connect with others for support.
Try to make sure you're not alone in making this change. Connect with people who understand how important the change is to you. Here are some ways to find support.
- Find someone who's been through the change you're planning. Ask for their support.
- Find online sites where you can read about or chat with people who are making this kind of change.
- If you can, ask someone you know to make the change with you. Having a buddy can really help.
- Talk to your doctor or a counselor about medicines and counseling that can help support your change.
- If you like to talk with and learn from others, try a local support group.
- Try a tracking and support application (app) if you have a smartphone or tablet device. Use it to track your progress and share your successes on social networking sites. Some apps let your friends and family record inspiring videos that you can play when you're having a hard time with cravings or stress.
- Stead LF, et al. (2012). Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (11).
Current as of: February 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health