As humans we are so prone to setting goals and NOT following through that we have decades of science dedicated towards figuring out why and how we can set ourselves up for success.
So what trips us up?
In order for any behaviour to change we all have to go through the same process….
1. We start at the WISH stage, where we wish things were different
- At this stage, we are developing awareness that what we are currently doing is not working for us and starting to see what continuing to do what we have been doing is going to cost us, and we are starting to dislike it
- ie. I start thinking I should really get to the gym or stop going to bed so late (replace with eating junk food, saying unkind things to myself, worrying about things I can’t control, being a doormat, etc)
2. When we dislike it enough, we move to the WANTING stage
- At this stage, we are quite aware of what we are doing and are really starting to dislike it, so much so that we start doing something about it, but only when it is relatively easy and convenient
- ie. One day while we are going up stairs we get winded and decide that is it. We are going to the gym! So we go once or twice, or only when our friend asks us to go with them, but we won’t go if we have to go home to get our gym clothes or if we had long day etc.
3. Finally, we move to the COMMIT stage
- When we become VERY AWARE and REALLY DISLIKE what we are doing, we basically GET SICK OF OURSELVES and COMMIT to changing no matter what!
- BEWARE:The last 20% or so of the WANTING stage, when we are very aware and dislike what we are doing, we are very tempted to beat ourselves up or indulge in helplessness / hopelessness
- ie.” I know I feel terrible every time I go to bed after 12 am AND I am still doing it! No wonder no one wants to come over, I am such a looser! I won’t ever change, I can’t believe I ever thought this would work! ” – or some version of this, you get the idea
- Don’t do it! We do this to distract ourselves from sitting with the discomfort and DISTRESS of KNOWING what we need to do and not doing it- this is what moves us along the stages.
- When we indulge in beating ourselves up or going helpless, we stop the progression through the stages because we are robbing ourselves of the ability to keep our energy directed towards “Geez! Every time I eat that cake I feel awful! I must not quite be ready to change yet, but I sure do feel miserable!”, we change the focus and in a really negative way that actually makes it MORE likely that we will make more choices that are against our values (ie. we are more likely to drink when we are beating ourselves up because we stop focusing on the fact that we DESERVE to be healthy).
NOTE: I first heard this presented in this way, by someone on Hayhouse radio and the basic idea is elaborated by my experience, just wanting to give credit where credit is due!
Here are 2 simple things we can do to help ourselves…..
- The most common reason I see for people not following through on their values (what they know is necessary to live a rich and fulfilling and meaningful life) is because they are not very clear on what their values are
- Start at the end! If we could magically make exactly what we want come true, what would our work or education look like? What kind of relationship would we have with ourselves? How would our health be? What would we be doing in the realm of spirituality? Community involvement? What would our intimate relationships look like? Our friendships? Our extended family relationships? How would we be parenting? What would our leisure time look like?
- When we are really clear about where we are going, focusing on that helps us stay motivated to do what is necessary to get there
- For more information about values, re-visit the Clarifying Values post
2. Rehearse! Rehearse! Rehearse!
- We have previously talked about how we actually CREATE neural pathways when we imagine, visualize or meditate seeing ourselves living our values
- When we do this while also imagining ourselves overcoming expected obstacles, we actually increase the chances our brain will recognize the situation when the obstacle comes up and triggers us to follow the course of action we rehearsed, helping us live our values
- This doesn’t have to be very effortful, it can just be imagining being offered a second piece of cake at a party while waiting to pay for groceries and seeing yourself saying no thank you and then CHOOSING to focus on how good that felt! It takes 5 seconds!
- For more information about the impact of rehearsal see the post about “How Reframing Can Change Your Life” and to learn more about Mindfulness, see “New Brain/ Old Brain, Mindfulness and Compassion (3/3)”
So lets’ get clear about where we want our life to go and start imagining ourselves making that happen!
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