In order to change a behavior, it is essential to follow these five simple, yet powerful steps below. Your life is worth changing and molding into the healthiest, happiest life imaginable. Only you have the power to really change yourself, commit to shaping your life into what you want and desire it to be. Start the unbelievable journey to a better you by taking action and following these steps.

1. Decide

This is the step in which you do some soul-searching and think about the behaviors you would like to change. The behavior to be changed needs to be something you want to change, it will be short-lived and not very successful in the end if you are making a change for anyone other than yourself. Read up on the problems stemming from the behaviors, (how does drinking too much soda affect your health, what ways does smoking affect your body, what happens to your blood cells when you are inactive, etc.) You may think you already know all the problems your bad behavior causes, but I'm sure if you researched it, you will find even more than you thought were possible.

Let your friends and family know your intentions, build your support network, join groups or have numbers of counselors available that you can call as needed. By calling 211 you can get a whole list of numbers for counselors available and community resources for a variety of things. Do your research now so you will be prepared when you need the little extra push or support later.

2. Commit 

You've decided to change a behavior that will make you a better you, now is the time to burn it in your head. You want to observe yourself at this point. Your whole focus should be on associating great pain to the behavior and imagining pure bliss with the freedom of the behavior in your life. Make the behavior very painful in your mind! It is human nature to try to avoid as much pain as possible and experience the most pleasure that life has to offer. Somewhere along the line you equated some sort of pleasure in the behavior you are now committed to change. The best way to change it, is to rewire, so to speak, the brain to follow along with what you know; life will be better if this behavior is changed. 

At this point, the most important thing to do is document your feelings associated with the targeted behavior. Keep a journal, use a phone app, record yourself speaking about it, any way that works for you to log, in detail, this behavior. Do this every time you practice the behavior, after it has been carried out, but your ultimate aim should be to record before and after. Record why you did it, was it because you really wanted to, because the thought of not doing it was too difficult to imagine? How did you feel after? Did it bring you immense joy? Did you feel better? And finally, imagine how it is going to feel when this is no longer part of your life. How do you imagine to be when this behavior is no longer an issue?

3. Prepare                                                                                                                     

After following the above steps, now you can plan for the change. Make this behavior change your top priority. You have your journal to reflect on, your resources together, decide to change and stick with it! Take small steps forward, be prepared for mis-steps, but don't let them derail you. Stay on course. This is You we are talking about. You deserve to be healthy and happy! Now is the time to commit and succeed! You will succeed if you don't give up!

Be specific and clear about what you want to change, such as, "I want to be healthier and lose weight." This is great, but you can't measure when you have been successful in the behavior change with a goal that is this broad and undefined. A clear goal would be, "I want to eat five servings of vegetables every day and lose ten pounds of body fat (not muscle or water weight)." Another example would be, "I don't want to procrastinate anymore." Compared with, "I will be five minutes early to every appointment, to work or school. I will follow a to-do list and set priorities that will be done by the deadline I assign myself." By being clear about what needs to change you allow yourself to focus on meeting those goals in a precise way. It can be hard to measure if you ate healthier today than you did yesterday, but you can say whether you did, or did not, eat five servings of vegetables without any doubt.

4. Action                                                                                                                                           

Work your plan. Monitor your progress, change patterns or environments that are holding you back. If you normally have a cigarette with coffee first thing in the morning, shower first and have tea instead. If a particular place makes you want to smoke, don't go there or find a way to bypass the area. Replace old behaviors with new ones, jumping rope or meditating when you would normally light up a smoke. Picnicking on a hike instead of going to McDonald's. Deleting all the time-consuming apps off your phone and replacing with productivity apps.  Reward yourself for your progress. After all, you made this change to be better, healthier, happier. Give yourself kudos, change can be and usually is hard. You deserve a reward!

5. Maintenance                                                                                                                             

Keep it up! Once you have determined you have been successful in your behavior change, don't let yourself fall back into the same behavior. You can't have "just one cigarette" and not go back to two packs a day, eventually. Remember how hard it was to make the change. Don't torture yourself to have to go through it again someday! You may slip up along the way, be prepared for relapse, just be careful to not use, "it's ok to lapse" as a crutch to not really change. If you find yourself doing this, start back at step one. Once you are successful, you can be an inspiration to others' who, like you, are trying to be a better, healthier version of themselves.