Listen. We get it. Change is hard. And once the good intentions and enthusiasm wear off, it’s difficult to keep doing things that take longer or cost more. So, how can you make sure that your good intentions translate into lasting lifestyle changes?
Make a plan. You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you’re going. A plan doesn’t have to be a lengthy document with charts and graphs, but taking the time to assess your current lifestyle, set some goals, and track your progress will help make your changes successful. We’ll have more about how to create a sustainability plan in a future post.
Start small. It’s so tempting to dive in and try to change everything at once. You may want to give up single-use plastic forever after watching one too many videos of sea turtles with straws in their noses, but you’re more likely to succeed if you pick one or two things to focus on at the start. This is where assessing your lifestyle is important. It’s easy to give up disposable coffee cups if you don’t drink coffee, but it’s a lot harder if you need your fix every morning. When you’re choosing a starting point, pick something that challenges you (so you can feel good about it) but that isn’t so difficult to give up you will resent it. Once you’ve mastered the first item on your list, the next one will be that much easier.
Prepare for failure. No one likes to fail. Failure makes us feel bad, and it makes us more likely to give up. But here’s the thing. You will fail. There will be days, especially in the beginning, when you forget your reusable shopping bags or to-go mug or when you give in and take that extra long shower after a long day. And that’s okay. Give yourself permission right now to feel okay about failure. Not so okay that you’re not motivated to change your behaviour, but okay enough that you can move past it and do even better the next day.
Track your progress. Once you’ve set a goal for yourself, you can track how you’re doing. Personally, I love charts and spreadsheets, so I will happily build a spreadsheet to track almost anything. But, if that’s not the kind of person you are, tracking can be as simple as making a note on your calendar or in your phone. Or, you can use a habit-tracking app, such as Streaks or Habitica, to keep tabs on your progress.
Reward yourself. It might seem silly to reward yourself for something as simple as remembering to bring your reusable bags to the grocery store, but you’re rewiring your brain to do an entirely new behaviour and our brains love rewards. So, figure out what kind of reward works best for you. Maybe you get a sticker every time you remember your bags. Maybe you have a cookie when you remember your to-go cup five days in a row. Whatever it is, let yourself acknowledge and celebrate that you’ve been successful. It’s okay to feel proud about making a change, even a tiny one.
Enthusiasm can only take you so far. By shoring up the foundation of your good intentions, you’ll be well on your way to becoming more sustainable, one step at a time.