Turning over a new leaf – for good

From ‘I should’ to ‘I can do it’

Wednesday, June 26 2019

Setting personal goals is one thing and committing to the long-term changes necessary to achieving them is quite another. An occupational therapist shares advice for sticking to your resolutions and proactively planning for the obstacles that could trip you up.

Change is difficult, even when we have a clear goal. Many of us struggle with the daily reality of living the change we want to see in ourselves, especially if we do not consider the full implications of following through successfully,” says Kersha Singh, an occupational therapist practising at Netcare Akeso Kenilworth.

As creatures of habit, changing our habits is extremely uncomfortable. For instance, we may realise the advantages of quitting smoking or drinking, or exercising and following a healthy diet, but when we put these changes into practice, we often find ourselves tempted or triggered in certain situations.”

Readiness for change
“Change is most likely to succeed when we take stock of the advantages of modifying our behaviour and they significantly outweigh maintaining the status quo. Also, change is best regarded as a process with various stages,” she says.

“In the pre-contemplative stage, we are not yet attached to making any change. In the contemplative stage, we start thinking about what we ‘should’ do. Most people get stuck here without taking the next steps to achieve their goals.

“Preparation is when we actively start planning for change, as outlined in the ‘smart’ acronym. The action stage is when we put planning into practice and prove to ourselves that we can do what is required to meet our goal. Maintenance is the stage when the new routine is established, however this does not mean progress is irreversible.”


Start smart
Singh points out that failing to plan for possible roadblocks along the way can make it even harder to stick to your goals. In occupational therapy, the ‘smart’ principle offers a useful start for planning to succeed in one’s goals:

S – Specific: be as detailed as possible when deciding what you want to achieve. For instance, if you want to stop drinking do you wish to cut down, reduce the harm or stop drinking altogether?

M – Measurable: consider how you will measure your progress and how you will track whether you are closer to achieving your goal. Mobile apps, a note on your calendar or other measures can strengthen your resolve and help you celebrate milestones towards your ultimate goal.

A – Achievable: how achievable is the goal? Think about what it would mean in practical terms to successfully reach your goal, what would your daily life look like once you have committed to the necessary changes?

R – Realistic: how realistic is it to make the change? Factors to consider include looking at your motivation for the goal you are setting yourself. Is it for yourself, for your partner or family, work or for your health?

T – Timebound: Decide on a specific date when you will start implementing the changes to your routine. Make a note of whether there is a timeframe or end date for achieving your goal, or are you making a lifelong commitment? How often will you reevaluate your goal?


“If you feel as though your goal could be unrealistic and unachievable, consider getting involved in a support group, or joining a gym or other relevant group activity to help keep you motivated.

“Inform family and trusted friends about your goals and share with them what you need to change in your life to get there. Others can offer support and help by holding us accountable if we start slipping away from our objectives,” Singh says.

Professional support, such as occupational therapists, psychologists and multidisciplinary mental health services provided at Netcare Akeso facilities, is available to assist where a person needs extra assistance in overcoming barriers to the life they want to lead. Netcare Akeso also offers treatment for mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, bipolar mood disorders and substance abuse or addiction disorders, among others.

“Ongoing outpatient support helps to reduce the likelihood of relapsing into unhealthy behaviours and can help to improve long term outcomes significantly. What is important, is for the person to treat themselves with kindness and compassion and start planning to get back on track; better prepared and stronger for their experience.”

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About Netcare Akeso
Netcare Akeso operates a network of private inpatient mental health facilities and is part of the Netcare Group. Netcare Akeso provides individual, integrated and family oriented treatment in specialised inpatient treatment facilities, as well as certain outpatient services, for a range of psychiatric, psychological and substance use conditions. Please visit or contact [email protected] for further information.

In the event of a psychological crisis, call 0861 435 787, 24 hours a day for emergency support. Psychiatrist consultations can be made through Netcare appointmed™, online at or by calling 0861 555 565.

For media enquiries, contact MNA at the contact details listed below.

Issued by:   MNA on behalf of Netcare Akeso Kenilworth
For media enquiries contact:     Martina Nicholson, Meggan Saville, Estene Lotriet-Vorster and Clementine Forsthofer
Telephone:   (011) 469 3016
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