How To Make a Change and Stick With It


When I tell people I’m going a year without buying clothes or shoes, I usually get this response: “Wow. That’s so cool. I could never do that.” For the record, the people who say that are wrong. They could go a year without buying clothes or shoes or whatever it is that they spend too much money on, but they just don’t want to…and that’s ok!

If you’re new to This is Thirty Four, you might want to check out this post on why I’m going a year without buying clothes or shoes. Bottom line? I’ve become too focused on material possessions. I want to be a better steward of the money God has blessed me with, and I long to see God move in a few key areas of my life. I pride myself on being able to grow and change when I see a problem; and I’m expecting a lot of growth and change over the next 12 months. (Actually, 11.5 months, but who’s counting? I AM. I’m counting. Every. Single. Day.)

Over the past few weeks, people have asked what I did to prepare for this year of my life and how I’m going to ensure that I stand firm in my commitment to go “a year without clothes.” You know what they’re really asking? How do you make a change and stick with it?

As I look over my life, I realize that I’ve made quite a few changes. From big changes like recovering from an eating disorder or moving across the country to be closer to my husband to smaller ones like getting up an hour earlier each day or drinking a protein smoothie every morning for breakfast, most of the changes I’ve made have impacted my life in positive ways and inched me closer to the person I want to be.

Recently, I analyzed what helps me make a change and stick with it. Here are my five key elements to lasting change: 

Think about the change before you make it.

I didn’t arrive at my decision to give up buying clothes and shoes for a year overnight. This idea was something that I mulled over for almost an entire year PRIOR to making the actual change. Could I do it? Would I stick with it? The answer was always “no”... until it was yes. Before you make a change, you have to WANT to change; and truthfully, it took me 12 months of buyer’s remorse and shame over my spending habits before I truly wanted to do things differently.

The other part of thinking about change is doing your research. In the month before I made my commitment public, I analyzed my wardrobe and my schedule for the upcoming year. Did I need to add anything to my wardrobe in order to get through the next 12 months? Was there an upcoming event for which I might need to buy something new, in advance, because I legitimately did not have something suitable in my current closet?

I ended up buying a new pair of sandals, a black maxi dress and a pair of black distressed jeans to get me through the year. Those items don't fill all of my wardrobe holes, but they do multiply my ability to create a variety of outfits for the next 12 months. 

Set realistic goals.

Please note that I did not say I was going a year without shopping altogether. Nor did I say that other people were not allowed to buy me things. (Is it too early to make my Christmas list?) I know myself, and I would not follow through on a “no shopping of any kind” commitment. While I’m not planning to replace one vice with another, I do plan to purchase some new patio furniture and artwork for my house this year. I also plan to “reward” myself for making it seven months without buying clothes and allow my family to give me a few things to restock my wardrobe in December. If you think this is cheating, well, honestly, I don’t care what you think.

Setting realistic goals when implementing change is important in setting yourself up for success. A change that seems too difficult is a change you probably won’t make. This might mean being more realistic about what type of changes you are willing to make in the first place OR setting smaller, incremental goals to realize bigger, more lasting change in the end.

Put accountability in place.

Friends don’t let friends stop buying clothes and shoes for a year alone. And neither do husbands and neither do online communities. There’s a reason I made my decision so public: I need the accountability of both people I see on a regular basis and my online community. A few of my friends have even jumped on the no clothes bandwagon with me! And as for my husband? He and I sit down every few weeks to review our finances. If someone else is watching the purchases I make, I am much less likely to purchase something I shouldn’t. 

Whether it’s not shopping or losing weight or starting a business, change should never be made alone. Figure out what type of accountability works best for you (ex: a weekly check-in with a friend or a monthly coaching call), and decide WHO is the best person(s) to provide that accountability. Set it up and make it happen.

Realize that change is about more than willpower.

I talked about this on my Tuesday Truth on Instagram Live yesterday morning (I do one every Tuesday at 7 AM, PST if you want to tune in!). When we’re faced with making a big change, we often think it’s entirely on our shoulders—and dependent on our willpower—to make that change. But the truth is, change really isn’t about what we can do. It’s about what God can do through us.

There is absolutely no reason I should be any different than the millions of women who struggle with eating disorders and body image issues their entire lives. BUT GOD…and counseling and hard work…BUT MOSTLY GOD. He is able to do immeasurably more than anything we can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20), but we have to trust Him and His promises. And we have to stay in constant contact with Him through prayer and scripture and the wise (spiritual) counsel of others. The truth is, you and God together can make any change you’ve been wanting to make…no matter how big and scary it might seem.

Push through setbacks and discouragement.

While I’m fairly confident I’ll keep my no clothes and shoes commitment, there have been other changes that have taken longer or involved more setbacks than this one. (Come on, who can REALLY stop eating dairy altogether???) The road to meaningful, lasting change is often fraught with speed bumps; but one setback doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress.

When you feel discouraged about where you’re at on your path to change, stop and take a look at how far you’ve come. Write down all the things you've accomplished. Celebrate the small victories. Give yourself grace. Know that change doesn’t happen overnight, but it won’t happen at all if you give up.

So what about you? I’d love to hear how you’re trying to change and grow this year! And I’d welcome ANY tips on how you make a change. Leave a comment below!