Are you Truly Ready for Change?

It’s a little more than a week after New Year’s, and hopefully you are all enjoying the return to life after the holidays and recharging. Personal growth and reflection is pretty normal for this time of the year, and in my last blog post we discussed taking a look at where you’re spending most of your time. While that’s important, what’s equally vital is assessing your own readiness towards change.

Almost all of you have more than likely made New Year’s resolutions for 2018. Hopefully you’re still keeping on. But for those of us who tend to falter (like 90% of us due to recent research), there’s obviously a missing piece there. SMART goals are something I was taught very early on in school, and can be a valuable tool. Being specific, realistic, measurable, etc. is an important aspect to sketching out your plans and aspirations but lots of us (including me), may have all the steps laid out and planned but still fail to follow through.

If we have the steps and the actions, what are we missing?

When we make resolutions or aspire to change some behavior in our lives, we’re usually not digging deep and looking into what our fears surrounding this change are. Or why we have yet to accomplish or make progress on it. Our though usually turns out to be similar to “I need to do X action every day or however many days a week to build this habit so I can get Y result.” Because we haven’t looked inwardly, it’s no wonder when we abandon them by February. Or what our own personal blocks towards change are. You may hear “mindset” or “limiting beliefs” and chalking it up to being pointless industry buzzwords.

But the current research is clear-- how we approach behavior changes is what determines our success. And it’s not always as simple as Henry Ford may claim, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t-- you’re right.” On the surface level we jot down our aspirations or intentions for the New Year, and are super pumped up to make the change whether it be drinking more green smoothies or staying in touch with family and friends more.

And it’s not that we secretly DON’T want to do these things. But there’s usually that critical inner voice (some call her inner mean girl, monkey mind, etc) that comes in with some remarks that tend to pull us off track.

Common ones for myself and for others I work with:
“Oh, you don’t have time to do that.”

“Who do you think you are? You’re not ready/qualified/in a good place to start a business.”

“What’s the point in trying to lose weight? You’ll just gain it back anyway.”

“You’re not in shape enough to start running. You’ll just look ridiculous.”

If any of these sound familiar, you’re not alone. We all have worries like this, whether we’re always conscious of it or not. Limiting beliefs are more than just a phrase thrown about in the online space. In fact, it’s often a daily struggle for us to first recognize them and even further to replace them with something better. To help remind myself of this, I use this sticky note quote on my wall above my monitor:

“Don’t believe everything that you think.”

Another common one I see on the internet as well. “You are not your thoughts.”

It reminds me daily that those fears and thoughts don’t have to control me or pull me away from what I want to achieve unless I let them.

There’s this psychological imperative that our brains try to make us back to our “normal” or homeostasis. Even if that homeostasis is one of dissatisfaction, exhaustion, and stress. Taking actions outside of our comfort zone, at least biologically, feels dangerous. Even if we accept that that might not be literally true, it’s still a scary thing. We all struggle with this, myself included.

Popular author Tim Ferriss subscribes to an approach he calls “fear setting” where he catalogues what is causing him anxiety and various ways he can mitigate it (more information this topic here) and I think that this can also be a valuable exercise. It is something that I prefer to do as opposed to setting goals. On a side note, I also set a power word/affirmation for 2018 instead. Yes, I understand that’s a total cliche but it seems to be working for me so far so why fight it?

But I think that that is still only a piece of the puzzle. What’s the most powerful is putting voice to the scary and uncomfortable thoughts in your head. Some people believe that writing or talking about them makes it more likely or a reality, but I believe that’s unfounded. These things are always there under the surface and if we truly want to grow and make these behavior changes you need to face the internal factors that are sabotaging and getting to the root of WHY.

We have things that we have learned or experienced that we carry for us for potentially decades and aren’t even truly aware of it. An example in my own life was being told as a child of maybe 9 that I had “thunder thighs.” I only wore jeans/capris for 10-15 years later and didn’t fully realize why, especially living in hot and humid Florida. The why just doesn’t connect with me until much later and I’ve only recently ‘allowed’ myself to wear shorts.

It’s not always something traumatic but it can be people in our lives who have modeled maladaptive behavior when we were younger or had their own beliefs that did not serve them that we carried on unknowingly. When it’s something that ingrained it can be incredibly valuable to have that outsider perspective that a coach can provide.

Either way, this is not a quick journaling or mindfulness exercise but a sustained weekly (or daily) effort that is truly working on yourself. Something that I am only recently realizing is that you can change your habits or make some changes in your routine, but if you’re not putting the deep work in you’re not going to get the results that you’re looking for.