Change is Hard

When I decided to write a blog, just the thought of it scared the crap out of me. What if I can’t write anything worthwhile? What if nobody reads it? But I decided to embrace change and the consequences that came with it, whatever they might be. What happened next? I built a modest audience of weekly readers, I’ve helped a few people along the way and I’ve learned a new skill. I’m not talking about writing either–I faced a fear. A number of years ago I read that the only way to be truly happy is to progress, and I’m always at my happiest when accomplishing things.

When I first began working with clients and I didn’t see the results I expected, I would get discouraged. The issue wasn’t their knee alignment during a lunge or the angle of descent on their push ups. At first I thought this might be the case, but eventually it dawned on me that change in itself is really hard. Most people don’t have the skills and strategies at their finger tips to bring about real change. These skills are not innate. They are learned, but only with practice.

In order to make real change, you need to develop new habits. There’s a lot of habit mythology out there. A common myth I hear from my clients is that he or she can only commit to one habit at a time and that it will take forever to develop. Neither one is accurate. You don’t need to perfect one habit before you work on another. And you can create a new habit relatively quickly.

First, figure out what a habit is. Perfecting your running technique or eating a high protein diet is very broad and these habits take an awful lot of motivation. I frequently hear “think big!”, but I’d rather think small. I mean really small. The biggest mistake I see people make is not starting tiny enough.

To make long lasting change in your life, start by adding something that takes almost no effort and little time. For example, if your original goal is to perform a half hour run 5 times a week, start by running around the block once. It may take all of 5 minutes, but that is enough.  For some people, just putting their shoes on and tying them up is a small victory. Each week you can add a couple of minutes to your run as your confidence and fitness increases.

It is important to find ways to celebrate your victories, and I don’t mean going out for pizza! I suggest that you do something physical to affirm what you have accomplished. Something as simple as a pat on the back or a “Way to go!” reinforces the habit you have just conquered. It might sound silly, but it actually works. The emotion of celebration glues in the habit.  Your brain wants to feel that elation, so when you perform that habit enough times, your brain starts drawing the parallel between the action and the positive reward which follows.

Next week I’ll discuss some more tricks I have found useful in helping my clients make continual changes on the road to a healthier lifestyle.