All habits have different conditions and constructs that keep them in place. In changing our habits it would be impossible for us to treat all our foibles identically. What I am proposing is an overall tactic to help us initiate change.

We frequently think that if we choose to change, then change will happen automatically. This is not true. Most of the time it takes a lot of effort and determination. We need to plan the changes.

For change to occur there has to be substantial, recognisable, meaningful benefit and reward. Most of the time we may want to stop a habit like smoking or cut out cream cakes but the long-term benefit cannot initially be seen as worth the effort. Only when we hit a crisis point (like being diagnosed with lung cancer) do we take drastic action. Most of us would like to think, ‘that will never happen to me’, but we all know it would be better to do something earlier.

We cannot just hope or wish for change to occur. We have to grasp the gravity of our current situation. To help us grasp the seriousness of a poor habit it is helpful to spend time with someone who is struggling with, as example, lung cancer. To see the consequences and to empathetically experience their loss of quality of life is a great boost to help us take a positive action. We can then consider, ‘do I want to live like that?’ It is useful to constantly remind ourselves what it is we want to avoid.

Having gasped the consequences, the next thing we need to realise that it is not a quick fix. The extra kilograms we are carrying around our middle, for most part, were created over many years of indulgence. It will require a sustained effort of many months to achieve our goals. What we need is perseverance and we can only persevere if we keep our eye on the goal.

It is important to set realistic and achievable goals. If our goal is not achievable over a set time frame we will quickly give up. To reduce our weight by 1 kilogram we first need to loose 100 grams. To give up smoking we need to begin with not smoking for one day. Setting small achievable steps is important.

We need to plan how we will achieve our goal. There is a saying that goes, ‘if we fail to plan, we plan to fail’. We need to plan a start day. We need to plan specifically what we will do, who we will be with and in what environment will we be. It is silly to begin reducing your drinking when you are meeting your friends at the pub.  This will also require some mental preparation. We need to ask the question, ‘Am I ready for this and what recourses do I have to implement my plan?’

The most important aspect of the plan is that we talk to someone about what we are planning to do. We should share our goals and listen to their ideas. Ask them to check up on us at the end of the day to see how we did. Very few of us will achieve it on our own. All great sports people have a coach because they need that encouragement and guidance; we are no different. Also it is simply no fun doing it on your own.

The Bible says ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour, for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him who is alone when he falls, and doesn’t have another to lift him up’. Ecclesiastes 4:9 – 10

So, let us write down our goal, break it up into achievable steps, form a plan of action, share it with someone and set a start date.