Talking about change and actually doing it are two very different things indeed. This is because change involves breaking patterns of behavior that have become so deeply intertwined with how we live our lives on a daily basis. Where we go wrong is we focus on the behavior first and foremost as opposed to dealing with the complex thought processes and emotional cues that have constructed the behavior in the first place.
On paper, change itself should be extremely easy. “I’m overweight” – easy – don’t eat so much. “I’m unfit” – easy – go and do some regular exercise. But let’s face it; it is all easier said than done! So, why do so many people want to make positive changes to their lives, but seem to end up back at square one after a few short weeks?
Well, by implication, change usually involves giving up something you’ve been doing for years, for something completely new. We humans, no matter how outgoing we consider ourselves, find security in patterns and familiarity.
Regardless of how bad the situation is; how much weight we’ve gained, how anxious we feel, how poor our relationships might be, it may feel emotionally safer to maintain the status quo with its expected outcomes than to embrace change and inevitably embrace the unexpected. This uncertainty about what the changes might ring in, what ripple effect they might have on your life, often leads people to choose the safer option rather than confront any period of emotional instability.
Connected to all this is also a person’s level of self-esteem. People who need to make major changes to their life are often the very people who don’t have the confidence or self-belief to make them. All the evidence before them leads them to believe they will fail; they may well have failed many times in the past and so they get to a point where they don’t see the point of trying. But in my experience, failure is a highly exaggerated feeling. As a very small child we think nothing of falling over and getting back up when we’re are trying to walk or of the thousands of mistakes we make when we are learning to talk. No, we keep going until we have perfected the art of walking and talking. But as we get older we are molded by society to see failure as this great looming thing that cannot be encountered at any cost, because it would involve a degree of humiliation.
But the fear of failure is often far worse than the effects of failure. Failure is in fact one of the world’s greatest teaching tools. Every time we fail, we learn something about how the process of change works and about how to get things right in the end. We add something new for when we try again next time. And there’s no denying it, change does take time and for most people, more than one or two attempts. The key to change is to have the resilience to keep going.
Change is possible. I know, I see it every day, but it can often feel like the biggest mountain to climb. However, as all good mountaineers will tell you, the key to climbing Everest successfully is preparation. So here are a few things you can do for yourself to kick-start your journey.
Kick-start your journey
Identify all of the ways your life will change for the positive when you make the change you want. List them and refer to that list as you go through the process.
Visualize what your life will be like when you have achieved this and try to imagine how it will feel to be the new you. Before embarking on your journey, research around the subject. Read and return to motivational stories of people who have already gone through the process. They will inspire and motivate you to stay on course. Recognize too that you are far more than this single issue you wish to conquer. You have so many other strengths and positives and it is important to acknowledge that to yourself to bolster your confidence.
Remember, change is often presented to us in the media and advertising as effortless or easy and the reality is often very different. This can lead to a sense of frustration on our part when things don’t go quite as planned.
But change never happens in a straight line. Think of it as a zigzag between two points. There will be ups and downs, but if you focus on your ultimate goal and take small steps toward it, you will get there in the end. Armed with the right support, the right preparation and the real need for a different future for yourself, you can stay the course. And as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
It’s fair to say the experience of the journey is as important as the destination itself.