Why is it so hard to make lifestyle changes stick?

You know how it is

  • having tried on several outfits, none of which look right, you look at yourself in the mirror and vow that this time you are really going to lose the weight
  • You run for a bus or train and suddenly realise how slow, stiff and ungainly you seem, not to mention being out of breath and you vow to get back to exercising on a regular basis
  • You know you probably drink too much, the dangers of excess alcohol are always being publicised and pictures of drunken girls behaving badly are frequently found in the media. You don’t want to be one of those and so you decide to moderate or cut out alcohol
  • Those Pre-menstrual symptoms you get every month are so annoying and make you feel so bad. Enough is enough and you decide to take action and sort those hormones out once and for all.

Been there, recognise the situation? I’m sure we all have. At the time we really mean it when we tell ourselves we are going to make changes, so why do we find ourselves in the same position a few months down the line? Why do we spend our lives in the endless loop of intention, burst of enthusiasm, dwindling effort, giving up and then regret?

Whatever you desire – weight loss, to be fully well again, to be fit, to look and feel fantastic – not only do you have to have a clear vision, but you also need to REALLY REALLY want to achieve it. Only when you have a desire that is stronger than anything else in your life will you make substantial changes that stick.

But there are other things that you need in place that will help you to make permanent changes.

Realistic goals

By all means have a grand vision; whether that is to become a millionaire, marry a handsome prince or lose 5 stone, but recognise that the vision is something to work towards. In the meantime think about the steps you might need to put in place to inch a bit closer to that vision. What do you need to do to make your first £10,000, to get known in the relevant social circles, or to lose that first 14lbs.

If you try to obtain something too big, too soon you are more likely to get disheartened and give up.

This is where you need The Plan.

Create a concrete plan with defined actions and a timescale. Your plan must have challenging but achievable steps. If you break down each goal into smaller steps that can be achieved in a short time frame then you will feel that you are making progress. It is like the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time.

As long as you continue to move forward you will make progress towards your goal. Every journey starts with the first step.


You are much more likely to be successful if you focus solely on the one ‘thing’. If like many of us women, you try to be superwoman and cram as much as possible into your life then your energies are going to be dissipated and you are more likely to run out of steam and then lose interest. For example, don’t try and lose weight when you have a holiday coming up, or when you are going to be super busy working long hours without a regular routine, or you are about to enter a busy social season. Studies have shown that people who achieve major goals in their lives tend to focus on one project at a time and reach a successful conclusion before moving onto the next project.


Now unless you are like Boudica, the warrior queen, you will undoubtedly require some form of support. As I mentioned earlier, we are full of enthusiasm initially but then this can wane and if we feel that we are swimming against the tide it is all too easy to give up.

It is hard to implement changes on your own and you do need a supportive partner, colleague or coach, especially if you are surrounded by others who do not understand what you are doing or who feel threatened. For example your friends might be upset when you no longer choose to go the Friday night boozing session / late night curry like you have all done for years.

A real key to success is to get yourself a third party to keep you accountable or on track. Now, you could get your partner / family / best friend on board with what you are trying to achieve so that they do not undermine you. Find an accountability buddy – someone who is going through the same process – and who can provide mutual support. However there is always the danger that they will unconsciously sabotage you. The partner who might be afraid of the changes in you, the best friend who might be jealous of your success, the buddy who isn’t making the same progress as you etc. That’s not to say they would deliberately act against you, but unconsciously they might following a different agenda.

So that is why it is so valuable to find an independent mentor or coach who will be supportive and yet not let you off the hook, someone who can see the bigger picture and has your best interests at heart.

So the next time you plan to make a major change to your lifestyle take the above into account.

Remember to

  • Have a clear vision
  • Have a real desire
  • Come up with realistic goals
  • Formulate a plan
  • Focus on this one thing
  • Get support

Here’s to your success!