“The most powerful force in the world today, is the power to change.” That was the fortune inside a cookie at a local Chinese Buffet. It is a good fortune. Do you agree?

Here are some ways to help make changes permanent and effective.

• Look at areas of your life where you have trouble regularly. Do you have challenges with health, relationships, or money? List exactly what you perceive to be the problem. Are these actual problems or just areas where you unnecessarily get after yourself? If you feel they are actual problems ask yourself, “is this something I can handle myself, or should I seek professional help?”

• Detail exactly what type of behavior you want to replace, and what the new behavior pattern or responses will be. If you get angry quickly, you probably want to replace that behavior with remaining calm under stress. What would that behavior look and feel like?

• Make a plan to help yourself catch yourself in the act of behavior you want to change. And, have a behavior that you will use to replace the inappropriate behavior. If you catch yourself spending money you didn’t plan to spend, make a deposit in your savings account. Or, cut up a credit card.

• Focus on the positive aspects of change. Most changes you want to make should be from one positive situation to an even more positive one. Right now you have a level of income and you want to increase it by 50 percent. That is a positive to a positive. It is okay to move away from a negative. However, make the goal a move toward the positive.

• Post pictures of your goals. Write yourself reminders of why you want to change. Tell only trusted people of your plans. Everyone else will see the results of your efforts. Then your new behavior and success will speak for itself and be obvious. Telling the world of your plans often locks you into a no win position. If you change plans before you reach your goals, you subject yourself to ignorant questioning.

• Stick with it. I’ve often heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit. And, it takes another 21 days to make it a habituated part of your life. Very few challenging changes yield to our first efforts, keep trying.

• Be good to yourself. Set reasonable, incremental goals. Be honest with yourself. Hypocrisy solves no problems. Remind yourself when you digress and begin again. Celebrate yourself when you succeed. And, remember to share yourself with those with whom you share the planet.

Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.

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