I want to change some habits, but then again, I don’t.
I set out to change my exercise routine many times over the years. I have the best of intentions. I try getting up early, walking when the weather is nice, lifting a few weights throughout the day. I do a few push-ups or get myself to the gym. Somehow, it never morphs into a habit.
I get inspired, then set out to firm up my body, help my heart and mental status by exercising. I know exercise will add longevity to my life. Knowing the facts doesn’t create the change. I don’t consistently do it.
Answering this will help us all realize why we find ourselves staying in a painful relationship, overeating, gorging on sugary foods, or smoking when the whole world hates the smell of smoke these days. What tips the scale to change the behavior?
This quote reflects reality to me:
“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”
I remember sitting in a psychologist’s office and answering this question, “When will you leave him?” My answer was, “When the pain of going is less than the pain of staying.”
It was painful to stay with him, my ex-husband. He was verbally abusive and controlling. I felt like a fragile little girl, with no power. Staying was awful. Leaving was down-right terrifying. I didn’t know where I would go, how I would support myself, and what workplace would hire me.
You guessed it, the pain of staying got so great, that I packed up my U-Haul trailer when he was at work and left him. I felt like I was jumping off a cliff with no end in sight. This was one of the best decisions of my life.
If you are thinking of changing behavior, relationships, or anything about yourself, here are 5 tips to consider.
On a scale of 1-10, where are you? (10 being you will go through what’s necessary to get it done.) My guess is that if you are lower than a 7, it’s not going to happen. Somewhere between an 8 and higher is where there’s potential for change.
Take a quick survey looking back on your life and recall permanent changes you made. At the point of change, what would you rate your desire to change that old behavior? What helped you step into the new behavior to make it a habit? Was it a Dr’s diagnosis? Was it being verbally stepped on again? Was it your image in a mirror or picture?
You need the resolve and the guts to keep the motivation number above an 8 for this to be permanent. This applies to starting any new habit or change. If it’s exercise, eating well, quitting smoking, gambling, or waking up earlier every day. If you rate this change low on the scale of importance to you, just forget about it.
It’s serving you somehow. When I stayed in the life-sapping relationship, what was I getting out of it? Financial stability was a big one, as he made most of the money. Then, I couldn’t face a failed relationship as it meant I was a failure. I had decided to marry this man and my stubbornness kept me stuck.
The biggest one of all, fear… of anything and everything unknown. I was miserable but what would it be like for me on my own? Over the days and months, I had become small through his constant demeaning behavior toward me. Change looked too hard and too scary, so opting to stay with the same old, same old is what happened for much longer than it should have.
What are you getting out of being stuck in your old ways, harmful relationships, or habits? If you are a hoarder, perhaps having control over stuff, helps you feel better. If you are a smoker, it’s become your habit and a comfort to smoke, so giving it up feels wrong.
If you want to change clutter in your home, you must let go of the hold stuff has on you and what it has started to represent to you. There’s something you are getting out of every negative habit, relationship, or lifestyle that keeps you stuck right there. Think it through and find what you are getting. Answers to this might not be pretty. Once you find an answer, weigh it against what you’ll get when letting it go.
Take the habit of eating chocolate. I feel triggered whenever I’m sad, happy, worried, or anxious. That’s most of the time! What is the trigger? It’s an emotion that signals a food craving. Bringing my attention to when this trigger goes off, identifying it as an emotion, frees me up to make a different choice.
Emotions don’t have to win. Take snacking throughout the day as another example. What’s the trigger? Is it boredom, anxiety, or discouragement over life circumstances? When you find the trigger, let’s say it’s boredom, knowing that emotional trigger can help you say, “Oh! I have other choices!”
If you want to keep your kitchen clean, put a time on how long it will take to do the dishes and clean off the counters. This may surprise you, as it could take about 20-30 minutes of your day. When realizing the small amount of time it would take, then overwhelm is gone out of your thoughts of doing the chore.
When you think about doing a yoga program each morning, finding a 10-minute YouTube yoga stretch can help motivate you toward doing that change. Without putting a time on the behavior, it’s too big of a change. “I have to do yoga every morning” has a different feel to it than “I can do 10 minutes of yoga every morning.”
What is that barrier? Is it your small way of rebelling? Is it that you are more comfortable with non-action? Is it fear? I love the book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. There’s fear about making changes. From a small tremble of fear to overwhelming fear.
Feel it fully, then take the first step to go forward through that invisible fear barrier. This is the action part of change. Every change has action where you need to kick yourself in the behind and start. The invisible barrier is paper thin. Kick it down with your big toe and step through it with a small baby step of action.
Have you done any of the above ideas to get unstuck? What helped you the most to move through that invisible barrier to action? Has your life changed for the better? Let’s start a conversation!