Whenever we start something new — wether it’s changing the way we relate to a loved one, thinking new thoughts about an old situation, or gearing up with an exercise regimen — one of the keys to sticking with the change is creating momentum early on in the process.
Here are 5 steps to help you build momentum the next time you make a change:
Pick something to measure. When you’re doing something new, it’s important to identify why we’re trying that new thing. What are you hoping will change as a result of this new thing? Once you’ve identified the change you’re looking for, figure out a way to measure it. Any easy example is exercise. You could choose your resting heart rate, your weight, or the number of reps you can perform. For emotional issues it’s often useful to focus on your mood. Check-in with yourself at the beginning and end of each day to see how you’re feeling — happy? sad? bored? irritable?
Track it for a period of time. Choose a reasonable amount of time for tracking. I like to track things for at least 30 days. That 30 day period gives you a broad enough of view to really get a feel for what’s changing. Once you decide on your time-frame make sure you track it regularly and record the results somewhere for review.
Recognize the change. It’s tempting during the tracking phase to look back at your results for trends and changes. My recommendation would be to hold off on reviewing until you’ve been tracking for at least 30 days. Once you hit that 30-day mark, then go back and review the data. If you’ve been sticking with your new activity, you’ll very likely see positive changes in the data. In cases, where you see something unexpected, that information could also prove useful.
Reflect on succes. Assuming you did see positive changes in the item you’ve chosen to measure, take some time to reflect on that change and consider how it has affected your life. This process helps to bring renewed commitment to maintaining the changes you’ve already started making.
When you work with me, I may ask you to keep a journal of some kind where you can track basic info like quality of sleep and mood. This journal becomes our way to track and measure together the changes you are experiencing as a result of seeing me. Not only does it give me important insights into what’s working for you, but it also helps you to see the positive effects of the hard work you put in each week.
The most rewarding thing about therapy (for both the client and the therapist) is seeing concrete evidence of positive changes as a result of the process. That gives us both a boost and keeps your forward momentum going.