Change is Only as Hard as You Make It
Depending on your perspective, we live in complicated times. As a result we have become rather astute in the fine art of over complicating things. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our pursuit of change.
While some people are absolutely OK with the status quo (bless them), the rest of us are striving to make things different. We look to improve our health, our relationships, or our communities (to name but a few).
We have noble intentions for wanting to make things different. We want better health to live longer and extend the duration of our play in the game of life. We want better relationships so we can feel a sense of belonging and intimacy. We want to heal our communities to ensure that everyone feels safe to be who they are.
The starting point for change is you. So, let's take a closer look at the art of change.
Change is hard for three reasons
- we are creatures of habit
- we believe change is hard
- we are masters at making things complicated
Creatures of Habit
Habits are comfortable, familiar, and deeply engrained behaviors. They feel like your favorite sweater in the middle of January on a Sunday afternoon. Habits afford a degree of certainty about what to expect or how you’ll react to life as it happens around you. It gives you the ability to run on auto pilot.
Stepping outside the cozy confines of habit requires that you deliberately lean into discomfort. But, it only takes 20 seconds of courage to move there. And, once you’re there, congratulate yourself for your achievement. It seems small, but it is really monumental.
Beliefs are Not Facts
Next, let's question the belief that change is hard. What I'm about to say will challenge many of you.
Beliefs aren't FACT.
The first entry in the dictionary for the word belief is, "a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing." Hello, habit! Just like our behaviors become habitual, so do our thoughts and frames of mind.
Maybe you’ve tried countless times to create a specific change in your life and you never quite achieved your desired outcome. Those experiences taught you that change is hard, if not impossible. Each time you tried and apparently failed, the belief of “change is hard” was reinforced.
Over Complicated with a Side of "No"
Finally, let's examine our natural tendency to make things complicated. Say your goal is to get fit - maybe lose a few pounds, gain some strength, and be able to slip into an old pair of jeans.
Here's what making this change looks like for a lot of people: researching the best diet plan, throwing out all the unhealthy food in the house, buying a gym membership, buying some new workout gear, going to the natural grocery store, coordinating the "last meal" before staring the diet, and announcing to the world, "I'm on a diet!”.
Just the thought of all those requirements feels heavy and overwhelming. As a creature of habit, the idea of making all those changes in the span of 24 hours is going to freak you out - even if only subconsciously. We place extraordinarily high expectations on ourselves and that makes long lasting change difficult to achieve.
Change is Possible
If you're contemplating change in some area of your life, I have some suggestions.
Accept that Changing Habits is Uncomfortable
When you set out to make changes, remember that you're asking yourself to experience discomfort on purpose. It's helpful to remember why the discomfort is meaningful. Then, allow yourself to experience 20 seconds of courage while enduring the discomfort. Then 40 seconds, then a minute, then 5 minutes, and so on. Give yourself time to adjust and celebrate your progress!
Be Open to modifying Your Core Beliefs about Change
Gently remind yourself that change is only as hard as you make it. Begin to believe that change is very much possible and you have the ability to do what it takes. Look back over your life and identify all of the times you did achieve change.
“There’s no shame in starting small; in fact, if you don’t start small, you’ll probably never start at all.”
— John C. Maxwell
Planning and organizing are valuable, but at the level of personal change they can serve to sabotage or overwhelm you. Start small and with new beliefs and behaviors that are achievable. Instead of overhauling everything, pick one thing and stick with it until you've mastered it, then move on to the next.