Improving oneself is not difficult. It might be uncomfortable. It might be slow; but difficult? Not so much. Figure out what you want to change; figure out a way to do it, move in that direction, correct as necessary.
So why don’t most people change?
Our problem is we make it too complicated. Some of the reasons we do that include:
- We think simplicity means lack of drive
- We are setting ourselves up for failure to get people to leave us alone (read related post)
- We think it will get us there faster
In reality, the simpler we make it, the more likely we will achieve it. We have built our lives over years with patterns and habits to fill our days. It’s as if we have built a brick fortress around us. If we try and make too many changes, we have to knock out huge sections of the fortress; we won’t do that. If we can just rearrange a few bricks, we’re more likely to fit that in (read related post here).
So, with that in mind, I offer a very simple Five-Step Plan to make change now.
1) Write it down
It’s not that there’s magic to writing something down, but once you do, you’re reminded of it. I strongly suggest that not only do you write down what you want to achieve, but you write down “Why do I want this?” Don’t make a list of “logical” reasons. We respond better to how we feel. A list of “shoulds” is merely one more thing we’ll ignore.
As an example, “I will lose weight because it will improve my health,” is not as effective as “I will lose weight so I can feel good in my body and proud of myself.” Remember, we do what we want more than we do what we should.
2) Make it Small
Remember the rule, “Small steps done regularly generate better results than large steps done intermittently.” In other words, it’s better to get out a walk a block – and really do it – than to swear you’re going to run a mile and sleep in. We have to “squeeze” these new activities into an already crowded life. If you have to rearrange everything you’re doing to fit in, you’re less likely to do so. If it’s a 10 or 15 minute increment, you’re more likely to find a way.
3) Try to do Something Every Day
No matter how small, find a way to move forward every day. Since the steps are smaller, it’s more likely you’ll do so. No matter how small the step, find a way to so SOMETHING, even if all you do is refine what you wrote. Back to the concept of the bricks; in reality those bricks are habits. Habits are what we do when we do NOT think. If we keep top of mind awareness on our goals and the feelings behind them, we are retraining our thoughts to focus differently. By doing that alone, we will see opportunities that we did not see previously.
On caveat to this rule: there will be days when you cannot do something. Life happens. The key on those days is NOT to beat yourself up about. If you go into “perfection mode,” you are more inclined to start thinking, “As long as I blew it today, I might as well really blow it. I’ll start again tomorrow/next week/next month/next year.” That can lead you to undo a great amount of progress. It’s better to just keep plodding along; realizing that it’s only a stumble and you might lose a little steam, progress is not linear; many times it’s two steps forward and one step backwards.
4) Get Support
In life, there are things we do well and there are things we want to do well. Making life-changes falls in the latter category, not the former. After all, if we were accomplished at these new tasks, we would already have made those changes. We can try and “power through” what we need to do or we can build a network of people who will support us when things are difficult and will guide us when we don’t know what to do. There is always more power in a group than in a single person (for better of for worse).
One other benefit to forming group support is it “shuts the back door.” Too often, we don’t tell people about what we want to do for a purely selfish reason; we feel that if we say it out loud, we have to accomplish it. Well, short of the fact that you get to change your mind, it does make you more committed to accomplishing it. If we don’t tell others; we find ways to back down quicker. Of course, only tell people who are supportive of you. (Dare I say it, we are supportive at ThisTimeIMeanIt.com! See if you’d be a good fit here.)
Find all sorts of ways to reward yourself. Remember, change is an emotional state as much as it is a physical one. If you hold off with the goodies for your “inner kid,” it feels like one more thing you have to do and you’ll be resentful and give up. If however, you’re making a fun process, you’re more inclined to keep moving forward. Make the reward commiserate with the effort so if went one day without smoking, it’s a small reward. If it’s a month, it’s larger. Life is short, enjoy it – and remind yourself more often of the pleasures.