This article is reprinted from:
How many times have you said things like: If only I could lose these five pounds, I’d feel so much better. I would love to stop smoking, these things are so expensive. I want to go to the gym. I want to get in good shape for the summer.
If you’re like most people, you’ve had conversations like this about many things. Unfortunately, you haven’t figured out how to take that huge first step. Some of you have plunged ahead only to have the next step be the one that brings your change momentum to a screeching stop. Here are some ideas that will help you to start the change process.
People inevitably think about change in large chunks. This viewpoint is a setup for failure because if your goals are too big, it’s easy to become frustrated. Think about making your changes small – lose 1 pound this week, go to gym once. If you succeed with this goal, your can take on a bigger goal next time.
Sometimes when people make the decision to change, they feel overwhelmed. They don’t know where to start. Should I stop drinking, eat better, lose weight, work on my relationship? Sometimes it’s just good to do some part of the change. If I want to stop drinking, maybe I should: read about not drinking, read about celebrities who have stopped drinking, or remove all the alcohol from the house. These are all examples doing part of the change process.
This is called the opposite theory. Let’s say that your goal is to meet the woman of your dreams. You continue to go to places to meet this woman and strike out every time. Opposite theory would suggest that you stop looking. Do activities that enhance your well being. Mister or miss right will show up when you are not looking for him or her.
Treat your change process like a good research experiment. Write down your starting weight and other measurements like BMI, etc. and do regular weigh-ins. Log in your data weekly so that you can see the change. Your perception of the change may be different than the facts. Stay with the data, not how you feel.
Not everyone is sold on the idea of change. In fact, most people are not. There is usually the healthy part of the person that wants to change. There is also the safe and comfortable part of the person who does not. This is normal. There is no reason to beat yourself up about things that you should want to do but don’t, like “I should want to lose 25 pounds”. You will find your way when you are ready.
Change is hard. No one is perfect. No one changes perfectly. Change is always 3 steps up and 2 steps back. People learn more about change from their setbacks than from their success. Be gentle on yourself, accept that these setbacks are part of the change process.
It’s easy to fail when you have set up way too big a step of change, “I will lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks” for example, or “I will be divorced by the end of the month.” Be realistic, the old adage “slow and steady wins the race” is applicable here.
Ambivalence is the battle between the healthy part and safe part of yourself. Sometimes when people are succeeding in their battle to change, they set themselves up their failure – the all you can eat buffet when on a diet, the bachelor party when stopping drinking, etc. Identify the risk factors that could lead to a setback and don’t put yourself in harms way.
Most people have several attempts at failed change before they get it right. All of these failures are actually success, because they give good information about the triggers that set up failure. They also highlight when change will be tough. When you are ready, you will succeed.
It’s easy to get the “f*ck- its” about the change process and go backwards. Have patience with yourself and recognize that change is hard work. Allow yourself to have setbacks. You are human right? Remember the best hitter in baseball fails 7 out of 10 times. Have some stick-to-itiveness in the process.
It’s easy to do the same old same old over and over. It’s familiar, predictable and safe. You can have so much more but you have to take that first BIG step. Be aware that you may have pitfalls, but recognize that they are opportunities for learning. No one fails at change, they just get better at it. You can be safe and miserable or take the risk and be happy. You know which one works best. Hopefully you’ll pick the change side. Always remember that change is possible.