I am going to change! Now!
We are quick to start, often quick to succeed – but often even quicker to revert back to the old behaviour.
- We embark on the change process when the discomfort of staying with what we know becomes bigger than the anxiety of the unknown. It is the same process whether it is smoking, diet, leaving a relationship – or embarking into a new relationship, leaving the job or starting a new job.
- We then make resolutions about how our behaviour needs to change, because at this point in time the motivation to “get to the top of the mountain” is really high, there is some adrenaline kicking in and hope for the better future floating over our heads on a pink cloud.
- After a while a novelty and excitement wear off a bit but the hope for a beach body, conceiving a baby, or being punctual and organised in new job, still keeps us going through the pains of doing something different to what the body and mind are used to.
- Sometimes we press “f*ck it button” and give up.
- But sometimes we actually get to the top of the Change Mountain… and what happens then?
For a while we may continue the new behaviour, but how often, almost unconsciously we roll back to where we started. There is no adrenaline kicking in any more, and once we got to the top of the mountain there was a big large plain full of people like us – going, “yeah I don’t smoke, why?” “No I never leave things unfinished why?” “Yes I do run every morning, doesn’t everybody?” No welcoming committee or even a small badge.
And we may feel like all the hard work was for nothing, and we can’t be bothered.
For the change to be permanent and not hinging on external approval we have to find a good reason WHY we want to do it. And it has to be a better why than “I just want to be in a relationship and will do anything to find someone”, or “I want to lose more weight than my mate Nick before our beach holidays”. Those reasons are good enough to kick us into a start, but not enough to survive the long boring walk on the Desert of Maintenance. This stage requires much deeper motivation to keep us persevering, even though there is no relationship to be seen and good old Nick is back to normal, happily scoffing full carb crisps with pork scratchings.
At this point we need to dig deeper – Why do I want to keep going?
The WHY has to connect with deeper values that our lives are about. And we may need to stop and think what they actually are. Then we will easily connect the dots:
- “I want to work on my confidence and self-esteem to have more self-respect and make better choices in my relationships” or
- “I want to lose weight because my family value a lifestyle which requires me to be healthy and fit and without it I won’t be a part of it” or
- “I need to be well cos I am the only person my children have to look after them, and they are the most important feature in my life” or even
- “I want to stop drinking because I owe it to my body, which defeated cancer and I don’t want to waste it”
Sometimes it takes a while to figure out that connection, and sometimes we don’t find any. And this is a useful information as well because it makes us wonder “why am I stressing about something that deep down doesn’t really matter to me?” – And we happily join Nick in a session of carb indulgence, because his friendship is more important than a beach body. Either way it is a long term win.