As we emerge from a year like no other, lots of people are talking to me about making change. Whether it is losing lock-down weight, getting fit, or more fundamental lifestyle shifts, doing things differently is certainly on the agenda. For some, change can be exhilarating and easy to execute but for many, it is an enigma with a little too much ‘deja vue’ along the way.
If you fall into the change is challenging camp, quick-fix solutions can look very appealing. In reality, we likely know their claims are suspect, but our longing for the promised outcomes is so great, that it is easy to be seduced. Skilled marketeers have understood our pain. They use compelling language that plays on our deepest emotions. They know which buttons to press to get the desired result, sadly usually theirs not ours.
The diet industry has made eye-watering sums from promising revolutionary weight loss. Social media is full of personal trainers claiming to be able to produce the perfect body overnight. There are any number of self-help books that guarantee to change your life. Yet the obesity problem continues to grow, the majority of us don’t have six pack abs, and for most, today looks remarkably like yesterday.
Apart from the impact on our wallets, there is a psychological fallout that is even more detrimental. Usually when we are tempted to buy in to these sorts of solutions, it is because we have long struggled with the issue at hand. There is a level of frustration, maybe even desperation that feels overwhelming. We place our hopes in the outcomes that have been promised and perhaps in so doing, we even subconsciously shift responsibility for making it happen.
When it doesn’t, the inner voice sighs, rolls its ‘eyes’, and tells us in all too familiar terms that we have failed again. Each time, its version of events is further reinforced as the ‘truth’ when in fact it is far from it. Without even realising, we are therefore unfortunately compromising our chances of success in the future even more. Rather than allowing the usual behavioural patterns to kick in, it is worth considering alternative approaches.
At the heart of successful change, I see two critical factors which are usually overlooked. The first and most important of these is learning how to limit the control of that internal dialogue.
Change and the saboteur
What I am describing above is the difference between the conscious and the subconscious mind. Recognising when it is in action attempting to sabotage our efforts (it’s not called the saboteur for nothing!), is key. I recently heard it compared to a rider sitting on top of a large elephant. If the elephant is running the show, there’s not much chance of going in the direction you want.
I have written about the saboteur multiple times before and will continue to do so, because so many are still unaware of the strength of its influence. Sadly, as a result, the same outcomes cruelly repeat themselves. Addressing this is the single most important part in any change process. There is an oft-quoted phrase that says’ If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got’. I would say a more accurate message would be:
Think as you have always thought, and you will get what you have always got
The process of change
The second factor is the process that enables lasting change. It is tempting to look at others who have already got to where we want to be and wonder how they make it look so easy. We forget that in fact what we see is the outcome not the process. Delve more deeply and you will find that success is the culmination of ongoing dedication to the cause, repetition of the things that make a difference, and a refusal to be thrown off-course. If one day they slip up, they get right back on it the next, learning the lessons and refusing to allow it to further impact results.
From my experience, the reality of making change is breaking down the task into a small, actionable, sometimes quite boring, steps that can be done again and again and again until they become a habit. Build a series of those good habits and you will eventually have the desired result.
Simple though it may sound, it is far from it. As humans, making change is not something that comes easily. Our basic instinct prioritises staying safe and maintaining the status quo. Go for too much too soon and you will be met with resistance, especially if your saboteur is still at large.
So, if making change is on your agenda for the next few months, take the time to set yourself up for success. By appreciating the reality of how it is done, understanding how to harness the power of the mind to help you rather than hinder you, and not being seduced by short cuts, you will be much better placed that you have ever been before. After that, it’s down to commitment and hard work all the way!
I’d love to hear what changes you have on your agenda for the rest of 2021 and how you get on.