Maintaining the momentum to make a change

Businessman riding a skateboard

This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.

Let’s say you watched a captivating movie, read an exhilarating tale in a book, or someone told you their uplifting personal story.

And now, you’re all fired up — energized and inspired — ready to make a real positive change in your life. The only problem: How can you make sure that you’ll maintain your momentum over the long haul?
Keeping that momentum to make a change

Let’s say you have been wanting to quit smoking for a long time now, or you’ve really been wanting to start exercising. All of a sudden, you read or see something that truly motivates you — and now you’re ready to make the change!

You’re determined. You are going to make this happen. It’s amazing.

The question is: Are you going to convert this determination into actual lasting change? How?

The feeling of determination is wonderful, but it can be ephemeral. It doesn’t necessarily last for more than a few days, unless you create an environment in which it will stick around.

But it can be done.

A 6-point plan to maintain your change

Here’s what I suggest, based on my successes and failures:

1. Make a commitment

It’s easy to say to yourself, “I’m going to make this change” — but then let yourself off the hook when things get tough or you get busy or stressed. Don’t let yourself back out — take action now to make a big commitment to others.

2. Set up a daily session

If you have enthusiasm right now, that’s great, but what happens to your change when your enthusiasm wanes? The change withers away. The only way you can make something stick is to create a habit through daily practice.

So if you want to exercise, set up 10 minutes every day, at the same time of day, when you’re going to do your yoga or pushups or jogging/walking. Put it on the calendar, and make it an unmissable appointment.

Quitting a habit is tougher, but perhaps try a “smoking-free zone” when you don’t smoke. (Or a “procrastination-free zone.”) Just an hour a day, then two hours after a few days, then three after a few more, etc. Eventually, you’ll learn coping tactics and awareness during your zone that will help you quit completely.

3. Create unforgettable reminders

What happens if your session is supposed to happen but you forget? That’s incredibly common when you first start a new habit.

Don’t let yourself forget! Put sticky notes all over, put up a big sign, have a zillion reminders on your computer and phone.

How would you make yourself remember if it were your wedding day and you needed to get to the church? Oh, that’s right — you wouldn’t need reminders, because it’s one of the biggest days of your life.

Make this new habit (or effort to quit a habit) the most important thing in your life for a while.

4. Be accountable

If you have to tell people every day, or every other day, how you did… that will create an awareness when you feel like giving up. You’ll stop yourself from giving up, for at least a moment, and reconsider. So in Step 1 above (“Make a commitment”), be sure to commit to regular accountability.

5. Give yourself an event

This is one of my favorite tricks: I have an event in the near future that I sign up for, and that forces me to prepare.

For example, if I sign up for a 5K race, for example, I have to do some training before the race so I don’t embarrass myself (too much). You can do the same thing: Sign up for a sporting event if you want to exercise, or announce a date a month from now where you’ll be completely smoke-free, or join a quilting bee if you want to learn to quilt (you get the idea).

6. Enjoy each step

All of this might seem like a bit of work, but honestly, they can all be a lot of fun!

See each step as a celebration of yourself, of life, of compassion for yourself and others. See each step as an amazing moment to be enjoyed, not a sacrifice for some future gain.

The victory is right now, in the doing, not in a later reward. Smile.

If you put these ideas into action (and you’re determined, so you will!), you’ll turn your ephemeral feeling into lasting change.

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is a father, husband, writer and the creator of Zen Habits. Zen Habits is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of our lives. It’s about clearing the clutter so we can focus on what’s important, create something amazing, find happiness.

don't miss