Personal transformation, self-improvement, habit or behavioral change is high on everyone’s wish list, especially around this time of the year. The change you seek could be about a better body, quitting smoking or another nasty habit, starting a new healthy habit, managing your emotions and reactions better and so on….
Yet these words can invoke feelings of overwhelm, fear, confusion, doubt and uncertainty in our minds. Sure we’ve all tried to change ourselves before, at some point in our lives, but how long did that last? It’s easy to lose the drive and motivation by day 3 for most. Or for some it’s just the question of where to start? Do I really have to lug this big boulder of change on my back indefinitely or for the next few months? How do I go about making such a BIG change in my life? How can I stay on track and ultimately be successful in making the change I want to see in myself?
The word CHANGE often brings a negative connotation with it. It appears that people don’t like change and are afraid of it, even though they may want it badly. But here’s the real deal. People actually like change, that is, if they have made up their mind consciously for it. They may not like the transition they have to go through to get there.
We often like what change eventually produces i.e. the end result. We just don’t like having to go through the motions to get there as that for some is the most painful part. Remember the adage “No pain, no gain”. The transition from who we are to who we are meant to be is often challenging and fearful but realize that it’s part of the process to produce the change we are meant to ultimately experience and enjoy. Don’t let the fear or the uncertainty affect you from driving positive change for yourself. You need to trust that no matter how much you dislike the transition you are going through, it will eventually lead to positive change and great things in your future.
I feel the way we think and talk about change is overrated. I like to think of the word choice instead which is defined as an act of selecting or making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities. I contend that any change you seek to make, however big or small, can be achieved through our choice as one of the main components in this recipe of “change”.
Our minds make choices all the time. Some through deliberate thought, logic and reasoning like education, career, the company we want to work for, food to order from the menu of a restaurant, to name a few. And some choices come automatically, like, the people you like to spend your time with, your friends, your interests and passions. You may not realize this is happening but your subconscious mind is constantly picking and weeding your likes and dislikes. You may be calling these preferences instead but they are your nothing but your automatic choices.
Changing yourself then, is simply adjusting your choices and making better ones. Want to lose weight, choose exercise over watching TV. Want to be healthy, then choose natural foods like fruits and vegetables over fries and loaded sugary drinks. Want to spend more time with family, then choose a better work-life schedule. Want to stay connected, then choose to reach out to the people you care about more often. Want to feel less stressed at work, then choose to spend your limited time wisely and eliminate unimportant stuff or choose to delegate it out or just choose to say No.
Even if you don’t see results within a week, keep at it and trust yourself! You will definitely see better longer term results due to the smarter lifestyle choices you have made and the power of compounding over time. You will unlock the secret to personal transformation, which is, making daily lifestyle choices instead of big life-changing transformations.
The options to choose from may be many, but the action needed to make a good choice is yours and yours only. If you feel you have made a bad choice in the past, then the game of life lets you choose again. And again. Keep making smart substitutions in different areas of your life that you want to improve upon. Until you feel you have made the right choice for yourself!
Changing behavior is simply adjusting your choices and making better ones. No more he makes me angry, she makes me sad, they make me like this! Because You make yourself angry, you make yourself sad, by your own choice. To change your emotion and behavior simply adjust the choice of your response. I choose to be not angry or not sad or not fearful rather I choose to be calm, composed but firm if I need to be. I will never hand my choice, my prerogative, over to the person in front of me. I ain’t no puppet to hand over all the strings of my choices to another. I completely own my choices, my behaviors and my actions!
Changing habits is simply adjusting your choices and making better ones. I’m stressed, I need a mental break, so I’ll choose to have a quick puff or my tenth cup of coffee in the day. Make a better choice instead. Maybe I’ll just choose to walk over and talk to a colleague, have some healthy gossip, or just have a brisk walk and breathe deeply for a few minutes to calm me down with some good old oxygen and get my head clear. I’ve been choosing to put some important work off(pro-crastinate) but I now choose to get it done with instead. I control my habits rather than having them control me!
To break a bad habit, just swap out the routine(what you do) when you get the urge(the trigger) to do it, with a better one to get the same or similar reward. Choose a new healthy routine instead of the old unhealthy one! Do not focus on what you are losing with this change. Instead focus on what you get to put in and the benefits of the change. Doesn’t change seem more manageable this way?
The analogy I want to leave you with is when you are on the expressway and want to change lanes then you don’t need to turn the steering wheel hard. You simply start looking into the lane you intend to drive in and you gradually end up in that lane. The rest is automatic! While I’m not trying to over simplify change, but in essence, that’s what it takes in the mind to achieve. A new direction, a new perspective, a new CHOICE!
The second ingredient in this recipe of lasting “change” is your ritual. These are your daily routines for e.g. you may have a morning routine that energizes you and keeps you motivated, calm and sets the tone of your day. Or you may have a work routine where you check your emails only at regular intervals, how and when you consume news or social media, time set aside for daily meetings or interactions with colleagues or customers. Or an evening routine where you play a sport or hit the gym or participate in your favorite activity. You will never change your life until you change something that you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your daily routines. If you don’t have any, create a new one today to help you bring about the change you seek.
Rituals or routines can last a lifetime. So by defining rituals, monitoring your actions and complying with rituals you can make change stickier and be more successful with it. A related concept that can help you with following rituals regularly is your streak. This is how many days in a row you stick with your routine or new habits. If you miss a single day then your streak becomes zero. You add one for every consecutive day (could be weekday only) that you follow your routine. If you get to a streak of 10 or more, then it’s that much harder to skip a day and let all your hard work reset to zero. You are tricking your mind by gamifying the streak metric.
The third ingredient in this recipe of lasting “change” is your grit. This is also known as persistence or tenacity and is often the top predictor of success. People often confuse this with will power and I think will power as relates to change is overrated too. Will power does not last too long and wears out easily like a tired muscle. Most people want to change either for avoiding pain or getting pleasure. Know and link your motivation to either of them. Ask yourself Why you want to change in the first place. Your Why power is more important than your will power. Your Why power is the ignition to your passion, the source for your enthusiasm and the fuel for your persistence. So knowing Why you want to change gives you a higher goal to aspire to and makes it easier for the change to stick, in spite of insurmountable odds.
So to summarize, choice, rituals and grit are the three main ingredients for creating lasting change in yourself. You can garnish this recipe further by breaking the actual change itself into smaller steps, celebrating minor successes along the way and feeling good about yourself for embarking on this quest. And this dish is best served daily!
Hopefully that simplifies the process of personal change for you. It’s not this big huge transformation you have to put your mind and body through. It’s this tiny alignment of your choices, coupled with regular frequency rituals and just a little grit to keep you on track. These are small things that can go a long way towards achieving your goals and eventually leading you to much more happiness and success in your life!