“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.” ~C. Joy Bell C.
Ahhh, the New Year’s resolution…. Many of us make at least one. Are you contemplating yours? Have you started implementing your new goals? There is most likely an area in our life that we would like to change. Have you tried changing it before but somehow ended up in the same spot?
Why is changing our habits so incredibly difficult? I ponder that question while I sit here writing this, at the exact time of night that I promised myself I would get on the treadmill. We all walk the same road after all.
Before we discuss how to make profound and lasting change, here’s an important point on learning new concepts: when we are introduced to change, our mind starts to figure out how it will fail. Inevitably, we think of reasons why this new idea will NOT work. And truthfully, if we try hard enough, every new change will crumble. So the question to ask is not if it is possible or too hard or ridiculous, the most important question to ask is whether or not this new plan or idea or change will work better for you than what you are doing right now.
If the answer is yes, then think no further and read on…
A Deep Shift
Sometimes we don’t really see how incredible the change could be, and changes are very difficult to bring about by effort or will alone. If you do fail, it can be really very damaging and cause you to lose self-esteem and start the negative self-talk. The solution is what my physiology professor used to hammer into our heads: ”CREATE A MODEL!” If we change our mental model around something, we will change the way we look at the world, and then it is effortless.
Important Foundation Building
How do we build a foundation for change? Here are the basics:
All that negative self-talk in your brain is not you! It is an old tape that plays over and over. You have the power to turn that tape off. Mental chatter can be very destructive and can demean us and challenge our inner strength. Cut it off at the pass by learning meditation or other ways to clear your mind. See the chatter but watch it pass like a train. Don’t grab on.
Create a New Mental Model
Each of us has a mental model. They are so useful because they simplify our lives and give us a scaffold to understand how the world works. The fact that we have models is not the problem. It is that we don’t realize we have them. We think the models are us, but they are our perceptions of how our world works.
But the universe always says yes. The moment we have a model defined, we get evidence that it is truth. We are in charge of our perception.
Change your Reality!
Try this exercise:
- Say it out loud – You have something you want to change. You have made a reality about this. Now say the reality out loud, and then write down every detail and every perception about it.
Example: I can’t work out at night because I am tired and I will get hungry, and then I will need to eat before bed and that will make me gain weight. And, I won’t be able to spend quality time with my kids and am, in essence, choosing my treadmill over my kid,s and that is just not the way I want to parent.
- Come up with a new reality – Construct a different reality from this one, and it must meet two criteria: (1) it must be better than the previous reality, and (2) it must be one that you can believe on some level.
Example: I could work out at night if I started with 30 minutes, 3 days a week while watching a show with the kids, so at least we are in the same room together.
- Fake it until you make it, and you will discover something.
You see signs that it is not working, just as you may see signs that it is. Do you hear: “It’s not working”? Totally ignore it: it’s not you, or the you want to be.
Example: While working out, you and your kids laugh out loud at something silly on TV, or your kids voice their pride that you are exercising, or they start to exercise too and turn off the TV!
- Document everything.
Get a notepad or a journal, and write down the evidence that what you are doing is working every single time it happens. Because the universe only says YES!! And the more you focus energy in the direction you would like to be going, the stronger that new model becomes. Start to read what you are writing every night, so you can see the change start to happen. It’s like bathing in the changes as they are shifting. It is positive reinforcement, and you will soon see that you are living a different reality than the one before, and it is working.
Example: You read your journal and find that most of your entries and positive and motivational things your kids are telling you while you exercise, and you are realizing that they are getting a lot more exercise because you are.
- Focus on just one change at a time– Be patient and give yourself time. Usually, at least three weeks of going through the motions of a new habit, etc., is enough to cement its new reality. Some more difficult changes may need more time.
- Support is key– Surround yourself with supportive people who care about you and who support your new goals. Often, we make a change that threatens others who depend on you to keep your habits the same, so they don’t feel so bad about theirs. I see this a lot with my patients who are very obese and have obesity in their family. Friends and family start to feel like their new desire to get healthy threatens their own negative behaviors. If you recognize this happening, notice it, give it compassion, and choose to surround yourself with others who are supportive of your goals. If you can’t find anyone in your circle who is supportive, join a group outside your family…join a support group, a gym, etc.
- Understand why– Why do you want the change in the first place? Is it something that you really, really want down deep in your bones? Deep change requires an emotional connection to something, a more personal connection that you can resonate with. Make the change for you, or for someone you love who would benefit from it, like getting healthy so you can spend more active time with your children.
- Be inspired– Listen to inspirational, motivational things. Turn off the negative news and get inspired during the day. Read a motivational book or listen to motivational tapes. Inspiration and motivation is contagious and can often give you the jumpstart you need to get rolling until you catch it yourself.
- Reward and celebration – Reward yourself for wins, and do not beat yourself up when you don’t reach goal. Pick something you are working toward that you can plan for, and get excited about. Maybe it is a trip to the ocean or hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Maybe it is as simple as getting to the point of walking up the stairs without feeling out of breath. With each day that you follow your new path, reward yourself. Set aside money for a trip or do small things for yourself such as allowing a pedicure or a massage, etc.
Above all, when embarking upon change, it is important to be kind, loving and compassionate with yourself. Change takes time and intention and patience. Your body, just like the universe, says yes to everything. Make it say yes to good things, loving self-talk and compassionate language. Be proud of yourself for trying to make small changes, make them realistic and go forth with patience. Every day is a chance to make yourself new again!