3 Tips for Getting Through the Process of Change

When I was growing up I wasn’t surrounded by all of the best influences. As a young teenager many of my friends were drinking beer and using drugs. Gratefully I never had an inclination to dabble with either myself at that early age. That’s not to say that I didn’t acquire my share of habits that my mother would be less than proud of.

One of my acquired vices was foul language. I’m not sure where I picked that up, perhaps while working at an automotive repair place as the “Gopher”, doing whatever odd jobs around the shop needed to be done. I’m sure school also provided plenty of exposure to language that my mother and other adults in my life would not have been pleased with.

As I began making efforts to clean up my vocabulary, I realized that change wasn’t easy, and that habits don’t die off, simply because we decide we want to change them. If you have been through any similar effort, I suspect you can relate. In light of that, may I suggest a three tips to help facilitate lasting change in your life.

  1. Change your environment to support your intent

It’s been said that 95% of what we do is based on habits and past practices. One way to sustain a change in our behavior is to change the environment that may be inadvertently supporting the behavior we don’t want. If you are trying to lose weight, for example, go through your house, collect all the unhealthy food options and throw them away. If they’re not there, you’re not likely to have a craving so large that you drive to the store to satisfy it.

If you want to instill a practice of exercise, keep your exercise clothes and equipment in a conspicuous location to trigger that behavior.

The use of visual triggers can help as well. A chart on the wall or art work or sticky notes or white board markers on bathroom mirrors, all can serve to foster the change in your life that you’re after.

Think through the changes you can make to your physical environment that will either remove the temptation to do the thing you’re trying to stop, or encourage the thing you’re trying to start, and then make those changes.

2. Enlist the help of those around you

I had a habit that was less than desirable at home. (If you must now, it had something to do with unabashed flatulence). Realizing that my physical comfort didn’t always need to trump my families olfactory well-being, I began paying my children if they caught me audibly passing gas. (I could still try to talk my way out of it, blame the cat for example, if they didn’t hear anything). It started with a quarter for each one of them that caught me. That helped a little, but eventually I raised the ante to 50 cents, then a dollar. At the time, most of our kids still lived at home, so it could be $4 a pop every time I sought to relieve my gastrointestinal pressure. If they came in series, it added up quickly.

Suddenly I found the willpower to greatly reduce this unpleasant behavior in our home.

This may be a somewhat humorous example, but the principle is sound.

3. Put a significant amount of money on the line

An upgraded example of the above scenario is this: write a check at a level that will hurt if it gets cashed, make it payable to a person or organization that you loathe, put it in an addressed, stamped envelope and give it to a person with explicit instructions to mail the check on a specific date if you haven’t accomplished your goal.

Pick your specific poison; Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi campaign funds, Planned Parenthood or the NRA. Whichever organization you know you would put a knot in your stomach if you realized you were giving your money to support them. You have to swear your accomplice to send it despite any excuses you may have at the time of the date, other than the actual accomplishment of your goal.

As you work to upgrade your life’s behaviors (and hence your life), getting all the way through the process of change can be difficult. The above three items are not an exhaustive list, but they can each help you turn your desired changes into reality.

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