What is it about change that is so challenging?
There’s a perception that we need superhuman amounts of determination and self-discipline to succeed. Maybe if we can commit to different behaviors over a certain period of time, we’ll suddenly have amazing new habits that will be the envy of our family and friends. The flip-side of this struggle is the defeat and negative self-talk that comes when we fail to solidify our changed behavior.
Change is a Spiral
Luckily, sustained lifestyle change is not so black-and-white. Our own internal judgment is scathingly polarizing, breaking down our thoughts and behaviors into good versus bad. True change is much more subtle and forgiving. Remember the twisty slide from your favorite playground? Or, perhaps you watch your kids slide down (and climb up) these now? The thing about twisty slides is that they are not linear like the super-fast metal slides used to be. There’s no stopping yourself on the metal slides. Once you start down the slope, you’re destined for the bottom – usually at top speed. With a twisty slide, you don’t generate much speed and you can easily slow your descent. You can even stop downward progress and begin climbing back up (we’ve all seen that annoying kid on the playground who hogs his turn, right?). Change is the spiral slide: slow, controlled, and with varying degrees of ascent and descent.
Hog the Slide
Sustained lifestyle change is about denying our internal judgment and embracing the ways of the spiral slide hog. The wisdom of this child is her understanding that there are many chances to go down and up in one turn, and she is not defeated until she decides to get off the slide. Unless another kid goes down to wipe her out, which luckily doesn’t occur in a behavior change scenario unless you have some seriously ruthless friends! Embracing the spiral slide mindset gives yourself permission to be human – to mess up without ending up on the ground, and to celebrate the incrementally small successes associated with true change. Even when we adopt a desired behavior successfully, there are always opportunities to slip and regress. The true challenge lies in not giving up. Hog that slide!
There are ALWAYS Barriers
Barriers, excuses… they’re always there. The truth is, it will never be the “perfect” time to change. Something will always be in the way, whether real or perceived. You have to climb the ladder (or the slide) to take a turn, right? We all start out on the ground, no matter our path. The three most common barriers I hear about in my practice are a lack of time, energy, and ideas. In the infographic below, I outline some simple solutions to these problems that I hope you find helpful. Typically, I work with reminding people that they deserve a turn on the slide (and hog away, baby!), and that slides are more fun with friends. We all need support to create sustained lifestyle change, which includes squashing that judgmental voice that wants to polarize our best efforts.