Small, Specific & Manageable Change

January 25, 2016 • Eating Disorder, Health, Mental Health, Recovery • Views: 1759

It’s the end of January, which means most of us have made and already forgotten our New Year’s Resolutions. The pattern goes something like this:

January 1st: It’s the New Year, I want to start a clean sheet. I’m going to be my best self yet!

February 1st: Well, the New Year came, I wanted to start a clean sheet, I wanted to do better.

Then, many of us spiral further down into the same old thought pattern: What’s wrong with me? What’s my problem? Why can’t I stick to anything that I start? Why can’t I change?

Sound familiar?

Well, here’s the thing: Change is hard.

The problem is that we set unrealistic or vague goals that we cannot achieve and then we feel terrible about ourselves and revert back to the original behavior. Basically, we are set up for failure.

Ask any gym owner: January 1st the gym is packed. People sign up for memberships and new packages. Plans are made. Goals are set. Aaaand…. by March, the gyms are as empty as they were in November. Equipment goes unused, sneakers sit in closets and people feel guilty about not sticking to their plans. This phenomenon is not just about the gym – substitute flossing or getting to bed earlier. The goal itself doesn’t matter.

So how do we make change stick? How can we learn to care for ourselves in ways that actually make a difference?

Here’s the not-so-secret-secret: To make changes that will stick you have to make them Small, Specific and Manageable.

For example, “I’m going to get healthy” is way too vague. What does “get healthy” mean exactly? If you can’t answer that with specific steps, you can’t make get healthy happen. Instead, start with one specific goal, not a bunch of them. Rather than, “I’m going to get more sleep,” make the plan to go to bed 10 minutes earlier than you would normally. It’s important to make the goal smaller than you think you want to, it has to be something that you can actually do. So, whatever your plan is, cut it in half. Try that for a week. After a week, evaluate the plan. What worked? What needs tweaking?

Here’s why this works: When you succeed with small steps, you feel good about yourself and your plan. That’s often enough of a reward to stick with the new behavior until it’s your new routine. Then it’s part of you and you can either pick a new (small) goal, or simply recognize that you were able to do something good for yourself and be able to say: I did good.

Use these tips for any health and wellness goal related to your recovery! Remember to loop in your circle of support when you’re setting goals. Talk to your therapist, nutritionist, friends, family – anyone that can support you in your Small, Specific and Manageable change. Happy New Year!

Rachel Barbanel-Fried, Psy.D., believes that health is created from paying attention to our whole selves, mind, self, and body. Learn more about her work at

Register NOW for our Jan. 28 wellness event #RecoveryNightChicago at Fit Lincoln Park!

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One Response to Small, Specific & Manageable Change

  1. […] eating disorder recovery, small, specific and manageable changes are so important – you cannot rush these crucial edits to the way you cope with stress or to your […]

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