When you’ve worked hard to achieve something, the last thing you want is to lose it. In some situations, however, letting go might be your best option. For instance, if you’re in an abusive relationship, you need to leave, regardless of how much work you’ve put into it. But when it comes to making a positive change in your life, holding on to what you’ve accomplished is vital to your success.
The maintenance stage is the final phase of psychologists DiClemente and Prochaska’s behavioral change process. In this stage, you have a considerable chance of relapsing because now that you’ve gotten this far, you might get comfortable, thinking you’ve made it.
You’ve defeated the arduous tasks of admitting that you need to change and that changing is worth it. You’ve also done something to trigger the process of change and finally took action by making the change. But if you don’t maintain the change, you risk spiraling back to square one.
Making a change does not mean that you’ve reached your ultimate goal, which is to stick with the change. When you go on a diet, you’ve taken action to lose weight. But what about after you’ve reached your ideal weight? If you don’t maintain it, you’ll regain weight. To keep your ideal weight, you must change certain habits permanently, such as your eating habits, alcohol intake, exercise patterns, and possibly where you dine.
Regardless of how much work you’ve put into gaining something, if you don’t maintain it, you’ll likely lose it.
If you don’t keep studying, you won’t maintain good grades in school. If you don’t keep performing up to par on the job, you’ll get fired. If you don’t continue to spend wisely, you could go broke.
Maintaining change takes lots of effort. But it’s possible if you:
- Expect and plan for potential problems. By anticipating the things that can stop you from sticking to your change, you’re able to modify your plan and prevent those hurdles from becoming a problem.
- Refrain from setting expectations that are too high. By keeping your desired outcome realistic, you stand a better chance of obtaining it.
- Take advantage of resources available to you. Whether it’s the support of friends, reading literature or watching videos about the change you’ve undertaken, or seeking help from professionals, your support system helps you stay focused on your goal.
Perhaps the simplest and most effective strategy for maintaining change is to constantly remind yourself of the value of what you’ve got. If you don’t want to lose it, do what it takes to keep it.