Ten ways to make change stick in 2018

I recently sat down for lunch and a natter with my friend Sarah Leach, who is a brilliant Life and Career Coach. It was more of an interview really, as I wanted to write about my own experience with coaching. But I also used the opportunity to pick her brain about the best way to make successful changes in your life this year.

I’m reluctant to say that we are talking about New Year’s resolutions here, because I know that for a lot of people that phrase is enough to make the shutters come down. However, thinking about ‘what I’m going to do differently’ looms large in January. Would anyone reading this say they have nothing they want to change or work on?

A photograph of Sarah Leach, my friend and a Life and Career Coach

Sarah Leach, Life and Career Coach

It is Sarah’s job to help people discover what they really want out of their lives, and then plan how to make it happen.  No surprise then that (in my humble opinion) she’s also really good at making change happen for herself.

Here is her advice for making your resolutions stick in 2018, with the odd thought from me mixed in.

Do you really want it?

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how badly do you really want to make this change?”

Sarah says this is the first question you need to ask yourself, and be really, really honest about what the answer is. Do you truly want to lose weight, or start going to the gym, or give up sugar and caffeine? Or is it something that you think you ought to be doing? Or that other people think you should be doing?

If you are close to ten, then you’ve got a chance of making it happen.

A slice of cake and a takeaway capuccino on a table outside a cafe

Be honest, do you really want to give up cake?

12 is the magic number

If you want to make a change permanent, then you need to make it habit. There’s evidence to suggest that in order for something to become habit, you need to do it at least 12 times. So that’s 12 spin classes, or 12 packed lunches, or 5k runs, or days without wine! Apparently this is the point at which the behaviour starts to happen unconsciously, and so it becomes part of your Brilliant New Life.

Tell someone

This is about ‘accountability’, a very coach-y word I reckon. Basically, if you tell someone about what you are planning to change or achieve, then you are more likely to see it through. It keeps you focused, if only because you don’t want to let them down. This could seem a bit daunting, because no one likes the prospect of failing in front of others, so I would add; choose your friend wisely.

I have subconsciously made this a part this new blogging project. I kept writing about it on Instagram, or telling friends, even when I feel like a fool. It is just a strategy to stop myself from giving up. If I’ve told everyone, I’d better just bloody well get on and do it.

A photograph of my holding my DSLR camera, which I would love to learn how to use better in 2018.

One of my goals or resolutions for 2018 is to improve my photography skills. Now I have told you! According to Sarah I should also get a date for a course in the diary asap to ensure I make this happen.

How coaching changed the negative record playing in my head

Put it in your diary and commit

Sarah’s a pretty fit chick and healthy chick. She says that one way she makes sure she shows up and sticks to her fitness goals, is by committing to sessions in advance and putting them in the diary. That can also mean paying for a course of classes up front. Just another little way you can help to keep your resolve, part with some money…

…and personalise

To make even more of a binding contract with yourself, personalise these commitments. So make yourself accountable (that word again) to someone else. So perhaps arrange to meet a friend for a run, or pay a personal trainer to help you get fit? If you are going to let someone down if you don’t turn up, you are that bit more likely to get on with it.

Stick it on the fridge

Sarah believes that it is powerful to put visual reminders of your goals and resolutions up around your home or work. So if you want to travel three times this year, put up pictures of the places that you want to visit. If you are saving up for a new house, or sofa, then stick a photo of it somewhere you will be reminded of it all the time. On the fridge or anywhere in the kitchen seems like the obvious place, or at on your desk if the goal is work related.


It works with children, why shouldn’t it work for us? We’re just big kids. Give yourself a treat for getting through the week without online shopping, or having a gin. Seriously, it could be a sticker chart. Or a favourite biscuit, or slice of cake. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Don’t make it a New Year’s thing

Oh. But isn’t this exactly when we tend to be setting these new goals?

Sarah says the point of this one is simply “don’t wait for a date, or month, or deadline to make changes in your life. If you want something, wake up and do it today”.

Not About the Kids explained

Not too much at once

If you are trying to make twenty wholesale changes to your life all in one go, how do we think that’s going to work out? ‘I’m going to get thin, fit, save for a new house, learn French, make new friends, and find a better job this year’. Lottery winning odds that you’ll achieve it all. Sarah says that the brain can only hold on to a certain number of tasks at any time. So the advice is to pick the one thing that you want most, and tackle that. Three at the most.

The notepad trick

A photograph of a notepad on a table, part of this post is about how you should write down your positive achievements each day before you go to bed

Be kind to yourself by writing down why you are great every night!

To keep your chin up through the whole thing, it can be useful try and end the day in a positive frame of mind. So before lights out, write down 3 things that you have done well. It can be really mundane stuff, like getting everyone out of the house on time, or, cooking a proper dinner that includes veg.

We can tend to lie down at night and start to beat ourselves up about the things we haven’t managed to achieve. This little practice turns that thinking on its head. If you can wake up and do the same thing again in the morning, then double win!

Thanks to Sarah at Stride coaching for these gems, hopefully you’ll find one or two useful. I reckon that’s all it takes.

What do you think? What’s helped you make proper changes in the past? What do you want to achieve this year? Comment away, I would love it.


What's your View?

13 comments on “Ten ways to make change stick in 2018

  1. Jules on

    Great blog. ‘How much do you really want it?’ is a big one for, followed by accountability. But the preparation one is the key for me. Boring but ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’.

    I achieve all kinds of things at work because I set clear objectives with measurable outcomes. And to ensure I hit them all I have pages of plans and reams of gang charts. And I am accountable not just to my boss but to my team. And whilst there are rewards for achieving goals – there are also consequences for failing to achieve them.*

    But I don’t apply any of this to my personal goals! They’re a vague inte-changeable list in my head. I need a personal ‘board’ who I have to share my goals with and report progress to on a quarterly basis!

    *probably also helps that I have huge budget, specialist suppliers and a team to help too! Maybe I should try and replicate that at home ?

  2. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hello! Love your tip, thanks J. ‘How much do you want’ it seems so obvious, but I don’t think we often bother to examine our motivations….then kick ourselves for not managing to do something we’re, frankly, not that fussed about in the first place*. My goals for this year are a bit too vague at the moment as well, although I did sit down last night to try and clarify a few things. Just trying to articulate what I want in a conversation seemed to help!
    *most forms of exercise at a faster pace that a walk

  3. Sarah on

    I love the idea of a personal board. It’s important to make sure it’s got people on it whom you trust and respect, people who are going to give you honest feedback. Good luck Jules. You obviously have all the skills and experience you need to apply all this knowledge to your personal goals. Just depends on how much you really want it ?

  4. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Penny, thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate you taking the time to ready my post and leave such a kind comment. What I would really like to be able to do is use my DSLR camera a bit better, as I think I would get better results than with the iPhone. I look forward to seeing how your blog develops in 2018, you wonderful running inspiration! Helen x

  5. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hello Sarah, thanks for reading and commenting, and thank you again for your help with the post. Let’s get stuck in to those 2018 goals!! Helen x

  6. Jules on

    I think you suggested something similar to me with the ‘captain and crew’ exercise. This would just make it more real/ scary ?. Can we book in a couple of sessions a for this year?

  7. Juliana on

    Great blog post Helen! All makes sense and all so true. I think the success is all in not overwhelming yourself with too many ambitions – definitely stick to 3! I have a terrible habit of wanting to do everything (very unrealistic) and not getting very much done at all, or feeling disappointed in my lack of achievement!! I think Instagram could be great for the accountability element alongside friends. Sometimes a prompt from someone you don’t know very well, or have never met, spurs you into action more than the comfort of a friend who’ll understand if you don’t make it!!!

  8. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Hi Juliana, that is so true, sometimes are friends are just too kind and let us off the hook! One change or achievement at a time is so much better than none at all, so now I just need to choose my first 3 for the year. What are yours??? Thanks so much for popping by to read and comment, it makes my day. Helen xx

  9. Helen G on

    Another great blog Helen! The ‘arrangements with friends’ thing is really key for me and my fitness. I started a running group that meet three times a week after drop off, and if I’m not there they ask why! Not in an accusatory way but simply ‘are things okay’ and if they are then they have a dig at me for being slack, and if things are not okay I get all sorts of offers of help. It’s truly been amazing in making me get off my lazy bottom and run, and I’ve made so many new friendships xx

  10. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Thanks for stopping by and having a read HG. You are the perfect person to hold friends accountable for sticking at something. No BS whatsoever! Now we just have to get back in to the New Year exercise and healthy eating routine…….Hx

  11. Miriam - londonkitchendiaries.com on

    Great tips on how to make change stick in 2018. I found the advice to ask yourself ‘Do I really want this’ particularly helpful and rewards are always a good idea – they might be in the form of biscuits for me 😉 Happy New Year, Helen!

    Miriam x

  12. @not_about_the_kids2017 on

    Happy New Year to you too Miriam, I hope that you are well. I’m enjoying getting back to normal and stuck in to some work. I agree, it seems so obvious, but to question your motives is really useful, and stops you from wasting energy on things that aren’t truly important to you. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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