Most people know what we need to do to be happier, healthier, or more productive.
Most of us do not do it.
Example: if I know that losing 10 pounds; or walking more; or spending more time with my family; will improve my life — and I have the wherewithal to do so — why don’t I just do it? Avoiding change is as much a part of the human condition as is falling in love or growing older. We all do it, whether we plan to or not.
This time of year that predicament is in full bloom. Millions boldly proclaim their “resolutions;” goals they will finally make real. The media are replete with experts, products, and services to assist in the quest. Diet centers, gyms, and self-improvement clinics of all stripes are busting at the seams. Yet, within weeks, you can shoot a proverbial cannonball through them without danger of hitting anyone.
Richard Bandler is one of two co-creators of the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). As I understand, NLP, in its most basic sense, states that our internal dialogue is a cause of our actions. For example, should my inner voice stubbornly insist, “You cannot lose weight,” I will develop a series of beliefs and resultant actions which reinforce that, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Conversely, if I “program myself” to say, “I am losing weight;” it will cause actions toward that end. In effect, you are what you think.
In an interview I recently viewed, Mr. Bandler explained why resolutions are usually ineffective. Being a student of change, and one who speaks to this topic, I was familiar with many:
- We really don’t want to
- Unrealistic goals
- Lack of a plan
However, one thing he noted that shot though me like electricity through copper was that change feels uncomfortable. I knew that. Yet, you know how sometimes you hear something you’ve heard a million times, and it suddenly comes to life? Well, that’s what happened here.
He explains that if everything is comfortable, we’re doing what we know how to do; there is little discomfort in old habits. Of course, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always be where you’ve always been. Stated elsewise, nothing changes if nothing changes. And so we stay stuck.
Should we desire a different outcome, we must alter our pattern. That triggers a feeling of being out of place. Since we are creatures of comfort and avoid anxiety when possible, this awkward awareness drives the need for consolation. End result? We revert to our habit and remain trapped. Ironically, lowering the uneasiness to zero means we are not making any adjustments; hence the same result.
Call it “lifestyle inertia;” a body at rest stays at rest.
The pathway out of this most unhappy loop is to minimize the discomfort — but not in the traditional sense that most of us choose, which is, “I give up!” Rather, the key is to realize that “awkwardness” we are experiencing means we actually are changing. In that moment, when the urge to throw in the towel raises its serpent head, alter the focus to WHY you’re going through this sometimes-arduous process, instead of HOW it feels in this instant. Imagine the sensation when of “getting there;” better yet, imagine you’re already “there.”
Once the mental image changes, the body can do nothing but come along for the ride.