Change is hard. Yet, we constantly talk to Y members who have made major life changes. While their methods, timelines, and goals were different, they agree on this: others can do it, too.

woman with hand weights

You don’t need a super power. You don’t need the perfect how-to. In fact, the YMCA’s Weight Loss Program is structured around self-designed action plans. No one size fits all, right?

So, if you’re on the brink of a healthy change—big or small—here are a few tips based on patterns we’ve seen and behavior change research. You can grow stronger and healthier, and you can start now.

1. Use the calendar to your advantage.

New Year’s resolutions are cliché for a reason. In Changing for Good, three acclaimed psychologists studied people who were able to positively, permanently alter their lives. They found, “Deciding to change when the external environment is most supportive—on New Year’s Day or after a birthday—can be helpful.” The same goes for the beginning of the week, the month, or another milestone. Use the momentum of a new start to put wind in your sails.

Group exercises together

2. Be SMART.

We tell you this every year because it works every year. Set SMART goals! Participants in our Weight Loss Program also use this tool in their 12-week course. When you take time to identify specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals—it pays off. Download our worksheet to give it a try.

3. Stay patient.

Gail, in Changing for Good, was determined to eat healthier even if her progress was slow. “It took her two months to lose her first pound. But it was the most precious pound she had ever lost.” Gail’s patience paid off. She continued her journey and achieved her wellness goals. We all know change rarely happens overnight. Stay the course. It’s worth it.

Older woman weightlifting

4. Expect to slip.

It’s rare to change a habit on your first try. In fact, change often follows a pattern of progress and setbacks. If you set a goal to exercise three times a week and fail the first month into it, that’s normal. Understanding from the get-go that these slumps will happen means that they won’t take you by surprise and ruin your plan. Accept the failure in stride and keep going.

5. Expect to keep going.

Yes, we want to emphasize the daily decision to keep your eyes on the prize. It lacks fanfare and often happens alone—just you and your brain deciding whether to eat that, work out, stop this, show up, etc. So, make one decision early on that you will keep going. It’s not up for reconsideration. And when your brain says otherwise, end that conversation.

Your wellness goals may be unique to you, but you don’t have to pursue them alone. Check out our health support groups to find others who will walk alongside you.