Change happens in the present.
As we enter the second month of 2017, I’ve started to notice the spark of New Year’s resolutions diminishing in the gym as more and more people start to break the promises they made with themselves on January 1st. If you’ve found yourself in this camp, there’s a good chance you’ve told yourself some story about why you can’t commit to a change in the present while clinging on to the hope that one day the future will magically present an opportunity for change to manifest in your life.
I hear these types of stories all the time working in the fitness industry, but the scary thing is that for a lot of people--most people even--these excuses permeate every aspect of life, not just fitness. I know this, because I do the same thing myself against my better judgement. I tell myself stories to justify my laziness or unwillingness to change myself all the time, whether it’s changing my diet so I wake up feeling great every day, or putting aside time to do the dishes after dinner to be a better husband. It’s remarkable how effective our minds are at creating these stories, but the first step to real change and improvement is to acknowledge that these are false-truths we tell ourselves, not reality.
One of the biggest obstacles between accepting this fact and committing to change ourselves is the structured nature of our day to day life. Most of us do the same things every day. We get up at same time, brush our teeth, get ready, eat some variation of the same thing, have cup of coffee--maybe tea if we really want to spice things up, take the same route to work, come back from work - unwind in front of TV and then lay in bed feeling anxious about what might happen tomorrow (even though 99% of the time tomorrow is the same as today, yesterday, and the day before that).
Our bodies get used to doing the same things over and over again. Our same motor neurons fire on a consistent basis and the same chemical reactions happen at the same time every day, producing similar emotions and reactions. Ultimately, we become addicted to our own unchanging behaviour making the adoption of new, better habits a very challenging task. We constantly pursue an image of a perfect life, but our actions betray our desires by trapping us in the same monotonous patterns we are accustomed to.
As I mentioned earlier, I encounter same challenges every day but I've found that acknowledging "my story" and my mental chatter for what it is helps me to stay focused on the changes I want and need to make.
At the end of the day, change is uncomfortable and requires discipline. I can't guarantee whether your actions will lead to your desired outcome, but I promise your odds will be better than with no action at all. Bear this in mind next time you tell yourself "this is not the right time" and "maybe when my circumstances change I will do this or that". By telling yourself this you are placing all your bets on the idea that the future will change your present. How ludicrous and even dangerous is that?
The present is the only thing you can be certain of. The future on the other hand is unknown and unpredictable. Not to mention, who's to say it won't bring even more challenges that will get in the way of your perceived ability to change.
With this in mind, next time you find yourself spinning stories in your head, observe your thoughts and make a note, but don't stop what you are doing or working on. Eventually your mental chatter will cease and I promise that you will be pleased you didn't abandon your actions.
When it comes to change, there is one truth: Your future circumstances will never improve your present, but your actions in present will certainly influence your future. You have the power to change.