28 Dec Can You Change Overnight?
Is it possible to change yourself overnight or does long lasting change take longer to implement?
I can’t count the number of times that I’ve planned to make a major change in my life and then very soon after something happens that means that my resolve is tested and I don’t manage to implement or sustain the change, I slide back into old behaviours and habits and before I know it I’m back to square one and totally frustrated with myself.
Change is really hard. Well, let me rephrase that, implementing lasting change is really hard.
I always feel like I want to embrace change, but I’ve learned that I need to make changes at a pace that I can cope with because when I try to make changes too fast, or cope with too much at once, that’s when things come off the rails for me.
When I was trying to understand what this was all about, I came across James Clear’s website and his explanation of George Leonard’s the Paradox of Behaviour Change. He explains that the natural tendency of life is to find stability. In biology, this is known as equilibrium or homeostasis. Our daily lives also develop their own levels of homeostasis. We fall into patterns for how often we exercise, clean the house, call our parents and so on. We each fall into our own state of equilibrium. You don’t really notice the patterns until you try and make a change. When we try and make rapid changes then this will contradict every stabilising force in our life. When equilibrium is lost the system will try and restore it. If you take massive actions then you quickly run into massive roadblocks. This is the paradox of behaviour change.
“Resistence is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favourable or unfavourable one” – George Leonard
The alternative approach that he suggests is to think about making small changes instead, so focussing on small wins and 1% improvements which help you to nudge equilibrium forward. Just like building a muscle, not too light or too heavy a weight, just pushing you slightly out of your comfort zone to allow your muscles to adapt and strengthen. He says that if you focus on changing your normal day, you will find your life changes naturally as a side effect.
It’s a bit like the idea of breaking your huge goals down into smaller manageable steps, and celebrating the milestones along the way to help you to stay motivated and moving forward. What also really helps is to look back at how far you have come, so how much progress you have made since you started. This is something that I often forget to do because I am usually so future focussed and always planning ahead. I do reflect but quite often it’s usually on the negatives rather than on the positives. If I took the time to think more about the positives it might help me to sustain the changes I’m trying to make and it would motivate me to keep at it.
I really love the idea of being able to change myself overnight but there are very few instances I can think of where a radical change approach has actually worked for me. I can think of times when this approach might work better than an incremental change approach, such as becoming vegetarian or vegan or perhaps for something like quitting smoking or drinking alcohol.
I always tend to procrastinate about major life changes, but I put that down to thinking things through properly, because when I go for it, I go for it big style once the decision is made. Let’s face it, life change is very scary as well as hard to do.
Even when you make the decisions yourself sometimes it’s hard to live with the outcome. We all sometimes make decisions we regret, even when we tell ourselves that we made the best possible choice at the time, it can make you feel less sure of yourself the next time you have a major life change to make. I think that is probably why I take my time over life changing decisions so much now.
I remember a friend telling me once (not to my face) that I’d changed, I was really happy that I had, she obviously wasn’t so happy as she liked things the way that they had been before, but I believe that everything and everyone changes constantly and that change is inevitable. Change is continuous and you can’t hide away from it. People change and they grow, hopefully for the better.
Whether you choose to make radical changes or adopt a gentler approach there are lots of things you can do to make positive changes in your life. Your mindset is completely within your internal control. You can start to work on removing anything that isn’t currently working for you, take a deep breath and make a decision to let it go and have trust in your decisions.
Whatever area of your life needs improving, for me it is definitely the physical body especially after the excess food and drink at Christmas. I’m going to shift my habits to be more supportive of achieving the results I want to see, make sure that this new year I get through winter boot camp training and keep trying to improve at yoga. I think for me making small changes and making sure that I stick with them and keep being consistent week in week out will be the best approach. It’s also about having a clear plan in place that means that the goals I am trying to achieve are in the front of my mind all the time. Whatever approach works best for you, radical or incremental, it can only happen for you if you actually start taking action.
“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance” – Confuscious
PHOTO BY XAN GRIFFIN ON UNSPLASH