How To Create Lasting Change
How many times have you thought about changing something in your life? As an example lets look at weight loss. It’s a rare human in our Western society that hasn’t considered losing weight at some point in their lifetime… And there’s all kinds of statistics out there about how unsuccessful people are with creating lasting change in that area of life – one stat I found said 97% of people who lose weight will gain it back within 18 months!! That’s crazy!!
Weight loss is just one example. Most of us can easily point to a number of areas of life that we’d like to create some change: get out of debt by creating and sticking to a budget or financial plan, get and stay more organized, stop being so reactionary or judgmental, becoming more mindful, etc. etc. etc. and yet we all struggle with taking this good idea and implementing it as our new reality.
So why do we all have such a hard time creating change? Setting up new habits and sticking to them? What does it take to actually move a new habit from just a “good idea” into something tangible in your life? Obviously, it’s coming up with a good plan right?
Well, actually no… If that’s all you did, you’d be missing a really crucial step. Jumping right into the planning stages without some specific and conscious thought is a recipe for failure. Trust me on this.
How many times have you tried to do just that, jump in with a plan, and only managed to stick to your guns for just a few weeks (or days or hours) before you started slacking off or giving up completely?
The first step to having a good idea become a new solidified behaviour or habit is to really get clear with yourself WHY you want to create the new habit. The why has to be more than just “I want to lose weight.” it has to be something that resonates with you; something that, at the very least, lights a flicker of a fire in your belly.
What does that mean you ask? Well, let’s look at losing weight. What difference would losing weight make for you in your life? WHY would you want to lose weight?
Maybe it’s that by losing weight you’ll be able to fit in your clothes more comfortably again. If you fit more comfortably, you’ll have a bunch more options of things to wear and you won’t have to spend so much time standing in front of your closet in the morning trying to decide what you can wear based on the limited options. That will certainly alleviate the guilt you feel every morning for having put on weight in the first place. Plus you’ll start feeling better about yourself, more confident. Then when you take trips to the lake on the weekend where you know you’ll be in more body conscious clothing, you’ll be able to be and feel the way you really want to because you won’t be so self conscious about your how you look!!
Imagine what feeling more confident about yourself and way less guilty would do for your day to day life…
Identifying the end result will help keep you focused once you get to the fall-off-the-wagon stage of habit forming.
Some great questions to ask yourself are:
1) Why is this (new habit) really important to me?
2) What will this (new habit) bring to my life?
3) What are the long-term gains if I do this?
4) What am I pretending isn’t important about (new habit) but it really is?**
** This last question will help you get access to what’s really important and get you on track to creating lasting change in your life.
One of the traps to keep in mind as you work through this part of habit-creation is to stay away from any and all ‘shoulds’ that come up. That means if you find yourself saying: “I should start following my budget and saving money.” Stop it!
If you’re trying to create a new habit for yourself from the place of obligation or “should” you’ll fail every time. In fact, you’ll likely develop some resentment for yourself and the habit that will make changing the habit that much harder.
If you try to lose weight from the place of “I should” it’s unlikely you’ll be successful – especially in the long term. If you set yourself up for a win by focusing on standing on the dock at the lake in your bathing suit feeling totally confident or standing in front of your closet feeling good about your options, you’re more likely to keep taking the actions you need to take to lose weight successfully.
Once you’ve gotten access to what’s really important you can start the actual planning stage of creating your new habit. This part seems fairly straightforward doesn’t it? On the surface yes but in reality it’s not.
There is way more to an effective plan than just looking at the basic steps to get from A to B. One of the things we often fail to plan for is how we’re going to keep things on track at the point where we’re most likely to give up and quit – A contingency plan if you will. You know what they say: ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’ This part of the planning process has to be given appropriate attention:
- How are you going to ensure you get up that hour earlier so you can go to the gym, even when it’s freezing outside and you didn’t sleep well?
- How are you going to say no to going out for dinner with your friends so you can stick to your eating plan? Or at least negotiate which restaurant you go to so you can stick to your plan?
- How are you going to stick to your diet over the next big holiday dinner?
- What do you need to do so you’re not tempted at work when a tray of extra sweets are brought in after a catered meeting?
- Who can you engage to help you keep this new habit alive?
These are often pieces of the plan we leave out when we say we’re going to start doing something new. Most of the time we just decide on Sunday that starting on Monday we’re going on a diet. We don’t figure out what we’re going to eat and how we’re going to make sure we have that food available when our schedules are so tight and we’re often running around instead of meal prepping.
Put the time in at the beginning, find the ‘why’, and you’re more likely to find success 🙂
Until next time ,
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