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Making Behavioral Changes That Stick


At 35, Rob felt his career and personal life were less than where he’d hoped they would be. Deciding it was time to make some changes, he eagerly embraced a multitude of new goals, envisioning a brighter future for both his personal and professional life.

A mere two weeks after committing to change, he found himself surrendering to the weight of expectations he simply could not sustain.

Instead of celebrating the few small victories he had, Rob focused on what he was unable to achieve.

Rather than basking in the glow of hope and accomplishment, Rob grappled with a sense of defeat, branding himself a failure as he cast aside his entire list of aspirations.

How Can I Set Realistic Goals?

By some estimates, only 10% of Americans who set new goals for behavioral change successfully achieve them.

“The key to setting realistic goals is to first sit down and reflect on what is meaningful to us as individuals, what do we you really want to change,” says Alan Crandall, Licensed Mental Health Counselor with Elite DNA Behavioral Health.

If your goal is to reduce stress and anxiety, then you’ll need to uncover steps to make that happen. Will changing jobs reduce your stress? Will starting a new hobby meet that goal? How about giving yourself 30 minutes a day of personal time to read, take a bath or meditate?

Making SMART Goals For Lasting Change

Crandall suggests focusing on goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely – SMART goals.

  1. Specific goals might include setting a calendar reminder to walk for 20 minutes every other day. A general goal to exercise leaves too much room for the objective to slip away. The more defined the action, the easier it will be to sustain change.
  2. Measurable tasks will allow you to track your progress, even if some days are better than others. At the end of the week or month, you will be able to determine if your action is sustainable. You’ll be able to evaluate if the goal you’ve set is too high, or not challenging enough. Most importantly, you’ll most likely be able to see yourself getting closer to your ultimate goal.
  3. Attainable goals are important for seeing real change. You may ultimately want to lose 50 pounds but setting a smaller goal to start, perhaps five pounds, can motivate you to keep going. A goal to walk 10 minutes a day can be a reachable goal. When that goal has been successfully met your progress can motivate you to increase your goal.
  4. Relevant tasks ensure your goal supports what you are trying to accomplish. Always ask if the goals you’ve set align with your values and are helping you reach your ambitions. Goals should be realistic and results based.
  5. Timely or time-bound tasks help you set a deadline for accomplishing your goals. To make lasting change you must commit the time necessary to achieve lasting results. By setting a target date, you force yourself to prevent mundane tasks from taking priority over your long-term goals.

How Friends And Family Can Support Your Efforts?

It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village of support to make lasting change. Friends and family can help.

Talk to your support system and explain to them what you’re trying to accomplish. Let them know why your efforts to set new goals are important to you.

Ask friends and family how they can help and offer suggestions for ways they can help hold you accountable and/or encourage your efforts.

A Therapist Can Help, Too

Often individuals wait until their unmet goals crush their spirit before seeking professional guidance. In Rob’s case, by the time he called his therapist, depression had set in making it that much harder for him to reset sustainable goals.

“Setting SMART goals can be difficult,” acknowledged Crandall. “Your therapist can help get you back on track.”

Specifically, look to your mental health professional to:

  • Remind you of what you have accomplished
  • Identify obstacles preventing you from reaching your goals
  • Help rework goals to obtain success
  • Hold you accountable
  • Be your cheerleader (your therapist wants to help you succeed)

“We recognize there are challenges and dilemmas and there are times when you’re not going to have the success we’d hoped for,” said Crandall. “We can help you rework your goals to help get you back on track.”

Your therapist can help you recognize where you have had success. From there you can rebuild and rework your goals for renewed momentum forward.

It’s Never Too Late to Make a Change

If you have been thinking about making behavioral changes but are unsure how to get started – or how to sustain your goals – our licensed mental and behavioral health professionals can help.

Our dedicated team is just a call or click away. Whether you prefer a comforting face-to-face session at one of our many locations or the convenience of a telehealth consultation via Zoom, we are here for you.

Change is never easy, but it can be the beginning of your journey to greater happiness and fulfillment.

The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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