Maintaining Your Goal Long Term

17.07.2017 |

Episode #9 of the course Setting and achieving fitness goals by Aimee Frazier


Scientists and psychologists have studied what makes people stick with a behavior long term, and there are several factors. Behavior change is woven into the human mind and body in complex ways. Many different factors determine if a person will be able to maintain their changes long term: from environment, to temptation, support, positive rewards, and the ability to plan ahead. In this lesson, you will learn what behavioral scientists have found to be the most effective tools for maintaining a goal so you can feel confident that your achievements aren’t temporary.


The Transtheoretical Model

The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change was a scale designed by experts from different fields who came together with the belief that behavior change is holistic and needs to address the physical, psychological, and environmental components that factor into making lasting behavior changes. The model shows the stages of progression of making a behavior change—in this case, achieving your fitness goals:

• Precontemplation

• Contemplation

• Preparation

• Action

• Maintenance

• Relapse

For the sake of this specific course, we will focus just on the last three stages: action, maintenance, and relapse.



In this stage, a person is actively making behavior changes toward their goal. This stage can last as long as a person is working toward their goal, which in some cases, can be months or years. People in this stage have to put effort into sticking with their goals and new lifestyle.

So, if you want to achieve your goal, researchers say that you’ll need to focus on doing these things:

• Replace old, unhealthy habits for new, healthy ones.

• See the benefits of your new lifestyle.

• Master techniques to maintain the new lifestyle.

• Use rewards for progress, in order to be self-motivated.

• Learn to recognize and avoid temptation.



The Maintenance stage takes place once a person has maintained their behavior change (or goal) for at least six months. Many of their habits are now healthy. They have a full understanding of the benefits of their change. The biggest risk now is relapse: falling back into unhealthy habits. They must be aware of stressful situations that could cause them to slip. In this stage, it’s helpful to have support from others and stay highly motivated via groups, a doctor, books, or a health coach.

So, if you want to stick with your new lifestyle changes, you’ll need to do these things:

• Be aware of stressful situations that could cause old, unhealthy patterns to surface.

• Gain support in order to stay highly motivated.



Relapse happens when an individual slips back into unhealthy habits. Stress, a lack of support, or too much temptation can all cause a relapse. Relapse is common for everyone, even the most disciplined people.

If a relapse happens, it’s helpful to jump back into the appropriate stage and not dwell on the feelings of disappointment or embarrassment. Take a few minutes to think about what you’d like to do differently—then jump right back in where you left off!



To summarize, in order to maintain your goal long term, you will need to progress through the stages of behavior change until you have reached the maintenance stage. Once there, you’ll need to focus on gaining support and maintaining healthy habits. If you relapse into former, unhealthy habits, you can jump right back in where you left off. In the next episode, we will bring together all the tools from Lessons 1-9, so you have a step-by-step guide to setting and achieving your goals.


Recommended book

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


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