Your Path to Changing Unhealthy Behaviors

December 12, 2023

There’s a reason why 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail before February. Bad habits and unhealthy behaviors are hard to break. And while you might know what you need to do to live a healthier life, it can be a struggle to change your behaviors. Here are some ways that you can feel empowered to make positive changes and feel better about yourself along the way.

Consider the 5 stages of change

Change doesn’t happen all at once. It can take weeks, months, or even years to break a bad habit or unhealthy behavior. It can help to think about the path you are starting and where you are at in the process:


  1. Precontemplation - You’re not consciously thinking about making a change.
  2. Contemplation - You’re considering making a change, but not yet committed.
  3. Preparation - You believe change is needed and are preparing to get started.
  4. Taking action - You begin making a change and practice strategies to avoid falling back into bad habits.
  5. Maintenance - You’ve made the change and are vigilant about preventing setbacks.

Set SMART goals

Goal setting is a key element in behavior change. But if your goals are too general or undefined, you may have a hard time working toward them. It can help to set goals that adhere to the “SMART” standard. This means, your goals should be:


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound


How does a SMART goal look? Imagine you are trying to lose weight. Your general goal might be, “I want to lose weight so I feel better.” However, framing this as a SMART goal might be “I want to lose 10 pounds before next year so that I can take my beach vacation and feel good about myself.” This more specific goal can make it easier to keep your eye on the prize.

Switch to positive motivation

For most people, a negative motivation won’t be enough to enact change. Instead, working toward a goal with a positive motivation may be more impactful and help you achieve your goals more easily. For instance, if you want to limit your sugar, your negative motivation might be, “I want to eat less sugar because it’s bad for me,” while a positive motivation could be “I want to eat less sugar so that I can feel better and live longer into my retirement.”

Use replacement habits

If you’re trying to eliminate unhealthy behaviors, it can help to replace it with an alternative that’s healthier. For example, quitting smoking is extremely difficult. But, if you replace smoking with chewing gum, you may have an easier time breaking the habit. It may be too much to expect yourself to break a habit cold turkey, so using a replacement habit or behavior can help.

Take control of your life

After doing the same things for many years or even decades, making changes may not be so easy. Taking control of your unhealthy behaviors by setting SMART goals, positive motivations, and using replacement habits can help. You will likely find that once you get started on your journey, you’ll feel better about yourself, and have more energy as you head toward retirement.


The journey to positive transformation is a long-distance race, not a quick sprint. Stay dedicated, keep your goals in focus, and don't hesitate to seek our support.