Having trouble making a change? Two things to consider
I learned a lot about habits and how to implement change in the last few years – how to create a new habit or routine by picking one really small action to focus on, getting very specific about how and when you will do it, and pairing it with an established habit as a cue to do the new thing, among other strategies.
Over the past few weeks I have been reminded of two interesting concepts around how one goes about making changes, and I think they both can be helpful if you are finding it hard to make a certain change or have tried to implement a new habit many times without long-term success.
The first concept was rediscovered when I came across an old notecard I had written (likely after reading some article or book and I wanted to remember this insight!), and it stated that when we are trying to implement any change into our lives, the value of making the change has to be greater than the value of staying the same. Or another way to think about it: doing what you’re already doing (current habit) has to be more uncomfortable than making the change...because change is hard! And there is always going to be some discomfort involved.
If you are trying to change a habit and it’s proving to be more challenging than expected, it may be worthwhile to consider whether the value you are placing on the new behavior is greater than what you are already getting from your current behavior.
For example, if I were trying to watch less TV but I really look forward to watching TV every evening, then perhaps the value it is bringing to my life right now is not outweighed by whatever I would gain from not watching TV. And unless there is something more valuable that I will gain from turning off the TV, making that switch will continue to be a struggle.
Considering what is truly, deeply meaningful to you can be helpful for clarifying what behaviors or actions will allow you to uphold your values, and therefore what changes you may (or may not) want to make in your life.
The second point is one I’ve heard again and again when it comes to change, and this time it came via a podcast interview with Brene Brown (and if you’re unfamiliar with Brene Brown and her work: https://brenebrown.com/about/). She and interviewer Tim Ferriss (author of the bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek) discussed the fine line between wanting to improve/grow/make changes while also accepting and being ok with where you are right now. The quote that stood out to me was when Brene said “I don’t think you can truly change for the better in a lasting, meaningful way unless it is driven by self-acceptance.”
I think we’ve all had the experience of trying to shame or punish ourselves into doing something differently and seen how well that works...As I recall one nutrition coach has said, if we could shame ourselves into change we’d all be superstar Olympic athlete geniuses.
As hard as it can be to hold both those things at once (“I want to change” and “I’m ok with what is”), until we accept where we are now or what is happening at this moment, we are unlikely to make successful, long-term change.
This is definitely not easy to do; it takes time and effort and practice to re-frame a mindset that may be deeply ingrained. But if you are able to make even tiny little shifts towards self-acceptance and compassion, you may be surprised by the results.
And if you’d like any help or additional resources to get you started, send me a message!
Here is a link to the interview with Brene Brown, I highly recommend listening if you get a chance:
And if you like podcasts and learning about habits, this is a great interview with James Clear, author of Atomic Habits (whose website and articles I love):
Lastly, a nice article about taking some of the habits you’ve obtained during the pandemic and putting them to good use in the future:
Onward and upward!