Achieving Safer More Sustainable Goals

Many of us have been told that in 30 days you can create a new habit or lifestyle change. Those of us who are familiar with goal setting or resolutions know this well. But have you ever felt like you've failed at the 30 day mark? That is most likely because a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, found that it can actually take up to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. 

When I created The Conscious Merchant and my consulting business, I wanted to utilize my behavior change training to help navigate making small modifications in our environments to create lasting and impactful changes. In public health we look at behavior change models, there multiple styles and concepts, all with limitations. The Conscious Merchant takes a Transtheoretical style approach which is an approach that suggests that there are six stages that create change: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. 

If you're looking to make changes for a safer + more sustainable future, here are the basic steps we think will help set you up for success. 

Step 1: Where Do You Want to Start? 

We are fed a lot of information on a daily basis. I'm sure this isn't the only long form writing you'll read today. Trying to figure out where to start may be the toughest part. How are you feeling? Is your personal health where you want to focus your time? Are you appalled by our plastic consumption and disposal? Are you looking to simplify and minimize your life? What are you Googling or talking about all the time? You may even have a list of multiple areas of interest. To determine what the first step is you want to take, I suggest choosing the one you feel most called to accomplish that also feels feasible for your lifestyle. 

Step 2: Take Inventory
You found your first focus-great! Take that goal and write down all the ways or things you think you need to change or implement to make that happen. Open up your phone or take out a piece of paper and take inventory. This could take you five minutes or a couple of days. This list can always grow or change, so the first time you do this exercise will probably not be your last. 
Step 3: Be Real
From your list ask yourself what feels truly realistic. We can have BIG goals and those are amazing, but you may need to ask "is this actionable right now?"
For example, “I want to eliminate pre-packaged foods and meals.” is a common goal when people are trying to reduce their single use waste. Are you entering a season of being busy with work or kids’ activities? If so, eliminating pre-packaged foods might not be feasible for you at this moment. (After all, Trader Joe’s microwave meal does make a busy life feel easier.) That doesn't mean it shouldn't be on your list, it just might be your goal in a different season.
Another goal instead might be "I want to get rid of single use food storage and supplies, like my Ziplocks and saran wrap." If you are on the go a lot and super busy, you package a lot of things, but making a swap feels totally do-able with the right plan. GREAT- here-we-go. 
Step 4: Create a Plan
Create a plan that is measurable and actionable. Are there barriers? Write them down and see how you can work around them. 
Let's take our example of getting rid of single use food storage and supplies. Write out everything you want to swap out. Are you on a budget? Do you have a lot of something already hanging around the house?
Prioritize-if you need to purchase items, budget an amount that feels right, even if that is spread over a period of time. Do you have 3,000 plastic storage bags in your drawers? That is okay-don't just toss them, replace what you're running out of. This does not need to be a trash and replace event.  Rome was not built in a day.  
Step 5: Take Action
Once you have a plan, it is time to put it into action. If it's changing a behavior, start implementing those changes. You may stumble and that is ok. Remember it takes time to form a new habit. You may even need to re-evaluate if your goal is achievable, or if you need to re-start and keep going later. 
If you are making swaps, get out that list of replacements and do the research on what to replace items with. I'm proud to say that I created The Conscious Merchant as a place you can walk in with that list, and we can help reduce the work within most budgets and needs. If we don't have it, I'll tell you where you can find it.
Step 6: Evaluate
Take time to evaluate your actionable goal. Maybe that is at 30 days and then again at 75 days. If you get stuck, go back to "being real". If you nailed it--- YAAAS! We're so excited for you and can't wait to see what your next step is in a safer + more sustainable journey. 
If you're ever stuck, or need a little guidance, we're here. We're in this together, and I love helping our community find ways to get real, get clear, and have fun while accomplishing their goals! Want more? Sign up for our newsletters and you'll be the first to get access to our content to supports your journey.