Making change - Live well March
How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along?
All going according to plan or driving you mad as a March hare? Are you starting to make those alterations in your life that you wanted to make? Now is a good time to go through your list and check on progress.
The process of how we change is a subject of endless fascination. The thing about making changes is that on one hand it is so simple, on the other, so very challenging.
Simple because the process—on paper—is reasonably straightforward. Complicated because every change is different, every situation particular, and every person unique in his or her ways of thinking and being.
The urge for change usually stems from a subtle or not-so-subtle feeling that something is not right—not the way you want it to be. Later you probably identify something that you want to alter—a behaviour, a habit, an aspect of your way of living. It may be something that you want to stop doing or stop being. But it is important to make certain that what you want is “positive” in nature.
By positive, I am referring to the general orientation of your goal linguistically and mentally. In other words, your desired change should be able to be phrased in the affirmative and without negatives. For example, “I want to be able to deliver that speech with calm and confidence” instead of “I don’t want to be nervous and mess up my speech.” Or in the case of wanting to lose weight, it will help you to know how much you want to weigh rather than just telling yourself you want to lose weight.
Setting a specific and realistic goal will help enormously to achieve that goal. Adding a sensible time element is also important. Sometimes time limits are imposed on you (“I am due to deliver a speech next Friday”) and sometimes they are of your choosing (“I would like to lose 10 kilos by …the summer …my wedding day …the end of the year.” In any event, setting a time frame allows you to check your progress and create mini-goals at appropriate intervals. So if you decide that losing 10 kilos by August is your goal, you can measure your progress and know that if you are losing an average of 1.5 kilos per month, you are on track.
All goals, however beautifully crafted they may be, require action to turn them into reality – action on both a physical and mental level. If your goal is to lose weight, tone up and go to the gym, at some point you will actually have to pick yourself up and get to the gym. For some people this step is straightforward. For others, it could be the first trip-up. “Going to the gym” sounds easy enough in principle, but “real life” can provide some logistical challenges. When will you go? How often? What kind of training will you do? How will it change my current routines? Will I also need to adjust my diet? Do I have to buy new kit? Etc. These are things to work out (no pun intended) and plan to the extent that you can.
Finally, there is the magic ingredient – motivation. Are you actually going to do all of this? Do you really want it? Is this important enough to you that the changes required and the possible inconveniences are secondary to your true desire to make the change? Here is where people typically derail. It is well known that gym memberships skyrocket in January. By March, there is a noticeable drop. So maintaining motivation is crucial to achieving your goal. Many books are written on this subject, but ultimately you will be motivated if you really want what you say you want. One way you can find out what works for you is to think of a time when you actually accomplished something that you wanted to do. How did you do it? What methods did you use to motivate yourself? Did you have any outside help? How did you sustain your motivation through difficult moments? These will provide you with some clues about how you operate. Draw what lessons you can and apply them to your current challenge.
One other important point. Consistency and repetition of the new habit —whether you feel like doing it or not—are key to cementing a change, especially during the first three weeks. It takes about that long for a new habit to take hold in the part of your mind responsible for maintaining your habits.
And if you are revisiting your New Year’s resolutions, decide which ones you want to keep and which ones to drop. Focus on one or two that are truly important to you now, and leave the rest for another time.