Change! We all want to make positive changes — whether it’s getting fit and healthy, improving work-life balance, or being a better spouse or parent. But while we want to change, it seems elusive, nearly impossible. Old fears make us question if we can succeed.
I struggled with my health and weight (and all these fears!), and I made it my mission to understand change and help others make positive changes.
Here are techniques to give you courage and strength to change in 2014.
Fear: “I’ve tried to make this change many times, but I always fail.”
Dig deep and find your WHY. “I’d like to lose 10 pounds in the next few months” isn’t enough. Yes, it’s a specific goal, and there’s a timeline … but why take on this challenge? “I want to look good for my sister’s wedding in March” may be a good motivator in the early part of the year, but what happens after the wedding?
If you want to make a lasting, sustainable change that sticks, you have to dig deeper to find your WHY. What’s important to you? What are your values? Maybe you want to be a good role model for your children. Or have more energy to run around and play with them. Maybe you want to be more productive at work and grow your career. These are WHY motivators that will stay with you for the long term.
Write down everything that comes to mind about your WHY. Review it often, whenever you need a booster shot of motivation.
Fear: “If I change, I’m afraid I won’t be ‘me’ anymore.”
Some straight talk: You might need to make some big shifts in your life, depending on your change. This is hard, but doable! Start with your eyes wide open. If you and your friends go out to the bars on the weekends, and drink and eat too much, that won’t fit in with your goal to drink less or get fit and healthy. If you’re not the person who goes to bars (or, at least, not the person who overdoes it) anymore, who are you? For the change to “stick,” acknowledge and embrace your new identity.
Fast forward in your mind — WHO is the person you will be after you’ve made the change? What is she like? What’s her day-to-day life? What does she think and feel? Write it down and keep this vision for a new and improved “you” front and center.
Fear: “I tried before and I’m just not confident I can do this.”
Now we can talk about your HOW. (You thought this step would come first, right?) Your plan will be unique to you, but it starts with creating a goal that’s specific and realistic. If you’ve tried to make this change in the past, go back to those experiences in your mind — what worked and what didn’t? Remember, last time you weren’t armed as you are now.
To gain confidence, write down your plan and itemize the specifics of what you need to make it happen. Can your hubby watch the kids while you go to yoga? Do you need to ask your boss for flexibility in your schedule?
What knowledge do you need — would a book or a class help? Do you need to consult with an expert or a knowledgeable friend? Before you jump into action, get specific and you’ll feel confident that you can really do it this time.
Fear: “In the past when I’ve tried to change, if I don’t do everything perfectly, I just give up.”
Ah, perfectionism. If you’re struggling with this, you’re not alone! You think you have to do everything just right, and when you don’t, you want to quit. You feel guilt, and fear you will never change.
Guess what? You’re human and, like the rest of us, far from perfect. You’re going to have slips. Accept it in advance. It’s OK! Now, how can you get back on track? I like the one-and-three rule I learned from Oscar Coetzee at the Optimal Health Center. If you slip up and have a meal that’s not on your plan, lose the regret and guilt. Make your next three meals healthy ones. If you have a bad day, follow it up with three good days. You’ll gain momentum and a boost of confidence. You’re on the path!
While we tend to think of change as an exercise in addition and subtraction (“I need to do this.” or “I need to stop doing this.”), it’s really about techniques to overcome your fears and create a new vision for your life. You can change and live your dreams. It is possible!