by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD
The new year is a time for fresh starts, new beginnings and resolutions. However, it is easy to set a goal and then watch it disintegrate as the year progresses. Sometimes we don’t succeed because we aim too high, or perhaps we don’t succeed because we aren’t fully committed. Whatever the reason, the good news is that there is a way to increase your chances of making your resolutions stick. The key is asking yourself some of the questions used with Motivational Interviewing (MI), which focus on finding and supporting your intrinsic motivation to change. While MI was first used to help problem drinkers change their behavior, you can use these principles to support your own behavior change.
The first step is to think about what change you would like or perhaps feel you need to make. This might be eating more vegetables, exercising 30 minutes each day, cutting out red meat, losing 20 pounds, quitting smoking, or whatever. Once you know what you would like to change, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Why do you want to make this change?
This is an important question because if you don’t have very good reasons for making the change, you will not be committed to it and will probably not be very successful. So for example, let’s say you want to exercise more. Your goal is to walk 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Perhaps you want to make this change to feel better, have more energy, decrease your risk of diabetes, support your weight loss goal, and lower your blood pressure. Identifying your reasons is key to helping you make the change. So what are your reasons for making the change you have identified?
2. If you decide to make this change, how might you go about it so you can succeed?
This is important to consider because it makes you think about your plan of action that is particular to you. It might mean scheduling exercise into your daily calendar, picking days and times when you will walk, walking on your lunch break, or signing up for a Zumba class. So if you decide to make this change you have selected, how might you go about it so you can succeed?
3. What are the three best reasons for you to make this change?
Finding out what your three best reasons for the change is important to finding your motivation. Once you have motivation, it is easier to stick with the plan. Looking again at exercise, your top three reasons to exercise might be that you want to feel better, have more energy, and lose weight. So what are your top three reasons to make the change you have identified?
4. How important is it for you to make this change on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 as not important and 10 as very important?
This step helps you to continue to build your motivation by putting a number on how important something is for you. If you find that what you have selected to change is not at least a 7, you may want to rethink what you are planning to change. So how would you rate the change you want to make?
5. What will you do?
The implication of this question is that you have built enough motivation to make the change you have identified and are now willing to go for it. Again using increasing exercise as our example, your response might be that you will walk on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for 30 minutes in the morning. You will buy a new pair of walking shoes and place them by the door as a reminder. So what will you do to make the change you have identified?
Changing behavior is never easy. But the new year is a great time to start. Asking yourself these questions can help identify what is important to you, build your motivation, and increase your chance for success. Happy New Year!