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How to Make a Change Successfully Using the Eight Keys

Change can be challenging whether you're trying to break the habit of being a people pleaser or you simply want to lose a little weight and exercise more.

Positive change boils down to 8 Keys for Breaking Bad Habits as previously discussed. When you want to make a change in your life to be a better version of yourself, it depends on several key components. Bad habits are hard to break, so it’s best to take a crack at them in small doses for the best chance of success. 

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A people pleaser working through lunch at her desk

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Why Habits are Difficult to Break—a Real-Life Example

Let’s take a real-life example: Sally is overweight, sitting at a computer all day, working through lunch at her desk. She returns home in the evening exhausted and plops down in front of the television, eating a pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream to recover.

Sally's goal is to lose 40 pounds, change her sedentary lifestyle, and get healthy and fit.

Like most people, Sally might decide to start too big.

Her thinking might go something like this: “I’m going to stop eating ice cream [there’s that word stop], go for a run at night [too big a goal to start with, since she’s been sedentary], and eat only salads all day." [Unlikely she will keep this commitment!]

"Oh, and I gotta get rid of the habit of watching so much TV, too! I eat way too much junk then.” [Up until now TV and ice cream have been her comfort so again she will likely feel deprived if she tries this action.]

How successful do you think Sally will be?

I’m overwhelmed just thinking about making this many changes all at once.

Resistance will kick in, for sure!

When we try to change a habit, we discover other reasons for the unwanted habit. For instance, there could be emotional reasons or stress that can cause a person to hang on to extra weight. It doesn't matter how much exercise or healthy food you eat if there are other factors in play.

Positive change requires us to increase self-awareness and master ourselves with every step toward our goal.

When you align with your highest values and goals, you'll see your life transformed!

Learn the power of good habits and how to apply the keys!

Related reading: Tired of Being Overweight? Lose Weight from a New Viewpoint on an Old Problem

Apply the Eight Keys to Life: Change a Bad Habit to a Healthy Habit!

Often we want to know how to break habits, but it's also easy to get discouraged or overwhelmed. Learning HOW to change is far more important, and these keys will empower you to change whatever you want.

Breaking habits can be easy if you know the keys and how to apply them to change effectively. One effective strategy is to build into your routine mini-habits to support your goals.

Let’s run through how Sally used the eight keys to meet her goal successfully.

Launching yourself into an amazing life is only eight steps away!


KEY #1: Be Specific. 

How much weight does Sally want to lose?

“I will lose 10 pounds.”

By when?

By December 15, so I look great at the office Christmas party (two pounds per month—reasonable.)


“I’ll eat a salad for lunch instead of fast food. Before I watch TV in the evening, I’ll walk five blocks.” Again doable!

KEY #2: Shine a light on thoughts that don't support your goal.

Although these decisions sound great. You and I know that our habits like to stick around.

Sally’s thoughts went like this:

  • "Maybe I've taken on too much."
  • “I’m too tired to walk tonight.”
  • “I deserve a treat; I’ve worked really hard all day!”
  • “I’ll begin on the weekend when I’m not so worn out.”
  • "I can still fit into that teal dress for the party."
  • "It will be so much easier to lose weight when the weather is nicer."

So, it's clear that we need to raise our awareness of our resistant self-talk. If we listen to our thoughts as if they were true, we rarely make forward movement toward our goals.

KEY #3: Replace mind chatter.

For instance, Sally could replace “I’ll begin on the weekend” with “No more putting off health and fitness.” In response to “I’m too tired,” she could talk back to her mind by saying, “I’ll feel so much better about myself if I follow through on my commitment.” And if you have an inner critic that fuels this kind of thought pattern, it's even more important to interrupt this chatter.

If a person can get started, it's more likely that they'll be rewarded with self-satisfaction and be encouraged to keep going.

Let's get started with a new healthy habit

Yes, I want to get started.
Help me be my best self!

KEY #4: Explore unmet needs.

By monitoring her thoughts, Sally realized that she was lonely at night and needed companionship. When she reignited an old friendship, she already felt better about herself.

Another unmet need was comfort. She used food to numb uncomfortable feelings as well as reward herself for working so hard. Once she understood this pattern, she interrupted it by getting massages and listening to what her emotions were telling her instead of masking them with food.

Many times, we want to know how to get rid of bad habits, but we neglect the wisdom of meeting our needs that will support change.

KEY #5: Start small.

Using this strategy, Sally decided to replace her afternoon candy bar with trail mix (with some dried fruit for sweetness) before she tackled having only a salad for lunch or eliminating ice cream in the evenings. 

By focusing on one small change at a time, it’s easier to move forward, reinforce new behaviors, and build on our successes.

KEY #6: Mentally rehearse.

Sally thought about how good she would feel as the pounds melted away. She reveled in the thought of her coworkers complimented her on how great she looked! She was proud of her new sexy, fit body as she looked in the mirror and experienced it as if it were real. She even went a step further and pictured herself happily dating a handsome man and running a 2K race with her girlfriends.
Brain Gem: 5 essential elements to utilize the brain's plasticity.

KEY #7: Link your new behavior to a well-oiled habit.

Linking your new behavior to a well-established habit helps speed up the "sticky' power of new actions.

When thinking about linking to something familiar, Sally discovered that one of her neighbors walked every single morning. She’d always wanted to get to know this woman better, so she decided to ask if she could join her. 

Sally also linked her morning coffee with reading about health and fitness, which in turn inspired her to keep on her program.

And lastly, she decided to walk to work (7 blocks from where she lived) to get a jump on her commitment to change her sedentary lifestyle.

Related reading: "27 Ways to Live Healthy with Ayurvedic Principles."

KEY #8: Keep Your Commitments.

Sally did pretty well the first four days with her with her new commitments. However, on Friday she was especially tired and a little down because she had received a reprimand at work. Sally decided to scrap her efforts to get in shape and vegetate in front of the television with a bag of her favorite chips.

As she settled into her big-armed chair, she caught herself and said, “NO!” and quickly got up and was out the front door for a walk before she even knew what had happened.

As she went to sleep that night, Sally felt awesome. Now she understood that she had created the unhealthy patterns and was confident that she could change them!

The U-turn Sally had taken when she was most likely to revert to her old ways was exhilarating. She felt good inside.

Sally was on her way to a healthier habit and body!

Related reading: "Learn How You Can Develop a Growth Mindset."

Then after some of these habits and small changes are in motion, it might be right to join a gym or hire a trainer to support a lifestyle change that will eventually not only be a habit breaker but a whole new lifestyle that builds confidence and greater well-being.

And don't forget to give your brain a boost, too. Keeping your brain healthy is a big part of creating healthy habits. Check out these brain training apps!

Personal trainer supporting a woman to make positive change

So there you have it! Now you know how to stop a bad habit and accelerate positive change! Make a change.

And here’s a final tip: your first change will be just one of these KEYS: #2, #4, or #6. Most of these are probably new to you, so just pick one that resonates with you.

Focus on one small change at a time and practice it until it’s second nature. Then pick a new one and practice it. Once you download these new ways of being, you’ll be able to practice more mindfulness and change anything with ease!

For more tools to be your best self, check out our online store today.
And to accelerate your transformation, try mind movies to create a life you love through visualization!

YES, I want to create a life I love!

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Jennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence CoachJennifer A. Williams / Emotional Intelligence Coach
Jennifer is the Heartmanity founder and an emotional intelligence expert. She has two decades of EQ experience and is the author of emotional intelligence training and courses. As an emotional fitness coach, Jennifer teaches EQ skills, brain science hacks, and a comprehensive approach that gets results. She is happily married and the mother of three incredible grown children.

Posted in Brain Fitness, Mindfulness and Perspective, Habits for Health

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