Deciding to make a change that matters is a big step. Maybe you’re feeling hopeful, excited, and ready for the change. You could be feeling nervous about changing. Or maybe you’re worried that you’ll let down yourself and others if you’re not able to change.
You are not alone. Many people who are thinking about change feel this way. It’s normal. And it helps you prepare for a big step and get ready to make a plan.
Many people who have been in your situation have found that having a plan-and staying focused on it-can make a big difference.
To start, think about why you’re here
Ask yourself some basic questions.
Exactly what 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?
Remember your answers to these questions. They can help you focus. You may want to repeat them to yourself over time.
Think about what works and what doesn’t work
If you’ve tried to change, cut back, or quit before now, think about that time. 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.
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.footnote 1
Create goals you can achieve
Take your big goal and make it 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. These steps are what keep you going from day to day.
Set a target or quit date for reaching your big goal. Choose a period of time that doesn’t include events that can trigger slip-ups, like holidays, social events, and high-stress times.
Be sure to reward yourself for successes along the way.
Here’s an example of first 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 a pack of cigarettes a week.
If you need to, make small changes to your steps-your short-term goals-as you move forward.
Plan to fight cravings
Think through these questions. Then write down your ideas for fighting cravings.
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 manage a craving so I don’t give in to it?
What will I plan to do instead of giving in to a craving?
Make sure you’re not going to be alone in making this change. Connect with people who understand how important the change is to you.
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 possible, 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.