Life is everchanging and quite often, we are the ones who are driving the change. Even if we don’t want to change, the constant changes in our environment force us to adapt to new circumstances, thus necessitating change. When the circumstances of our lives drive the change, we have no choice but to adapt, however, when we are driving the change, we often struggle to make those changes stick.
So why do we fail to make the changes we desire?
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When you desire to make changes, they are motivated by a desire for something better e.g.:
You know that you want to make improvements and, you probably know the changes you need to make. Despite this, it can still be very difficult to make those changes. This is because any behavioural change is challenging. Our behaviour is most often dictated by habits. Habits are ingrained and very powerful. They need to be as they save us an incredible amount of mental energy each day. If you had to decide every little thing you do each day, you would fry your brain. So, habits prevent you from having to make most of these decisions, allowing you to focus your mental energy on more important matters.
When you want to make changes for the better in your life, you need to replace the habits that no longer serve you with better habits. In doing so, you are facing a formidable opponent as you will naturally face some resistance from your conditioned behaviour (habits).
2 reasons you fail to make changes
This article intends to encourage you to reflect on what you can do better when making changes. To help you I want to highlight two common mistakes when making changes:
1. Too hard, too fast
Whatever your bad habits may be, you didn’t develop them in an instant. So, why would you expect to replace in an instant? We humans are naturally greedy. We want what we want and we want it now.
When it comes to building new habits, we want to make the total change right now i.e. eliminate the bad habit and replace it with the good one in one fell swoop. This may work with small habit changes but when you are trying to change a big habit, you are going to face more resistance. Some people can cope with making dramatic changes in one go but most of us struggle and experience increased temptation to just give up.
Instead of rushing things, you may be more successful if you focus on gradual improvements e.g.
Simply put, identify the smallest action you can take towards instilling the new habit. As you stick to that, gradually increase it until you have fully embedded the new habit. You probably think that this will take much longer to see positive results but it will often be quicker for one simple reason – you will stick to the smaller changes, and so over time, the effects of small actions taken will outweigh the effects of large actions which are rarely taken.
2. Expect less than perfection
You know that any new habit you want to introduce will require you to take consistent action. It can only work if you take that consistent action. But that does not mean that you cannot suffer some slip-ups along the way.
Many people are incredibly hard on themselves when they have a day where they failed to take the required action on their new habit. That does not help as it will only further damage your confidence and self-esteem. You are a fallible human being so, you should expect some difficulties along the way. Perfection is neither possible nor necessary. As an old personal trainer friend of mine used to say:
‘If you do the right thing 80% of the time, you will achieve great outcomes’.
So, when you slip up, just focus on getting it right the next time. Treat yourself with kindness and try again. Over time, you will build greater consistency and reap the rewards for doing so.
Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting
Instilling and embedding new habits is fundamental to achieving your goals. But first you need to set the right goals to inspire and motivate you.
To learn more about great goal setting, check out the 'Ultimate Guide to Goal Setting'.
Whatever change you wish to make in your life, you are going to have to make some changes to your habits. These are ingrained behaviours designed to save you time and energy. Habits do put up a little resistance when you try to change them so you should expect some challenges. It is easy to give in when things go wrong but if you remember to start small and expect less than perfection, you will greatly increase your chances of success.