In this article we will discuss why change is so challenging and how to overcome the barriers holding us back from sustainable change. Whether it is forced upon us or we decide to make it for ourselves we often battle with the thoughts and processes involved in changing lifestyles and habits.
There are a million reasons as to why we don’t take that first step towards change and they are all understandable, but honestly, they’re just excuses, they’re the stories we tell ourselves to justify not doing something.
Before we start it’s important to understand that our brains have a negative bias, negative events have more of an impact on us than positive ones and this can have a powerful effect on your behaviour, decisions and relationships.
We have a natural tendency to develop a victim mindset, we remember traumatic experiences more than positive ones, think about negative things more often than positive and we respond more strongly to negative events.
As humans we have between 12,000 – 60,000 thoughts per day. a whopping 80% of those thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive.
Whilst you may think that having this negative mindset would inspire us to make change and improve our lives it actually has the opposite effect. We believe we are incapable and we feel like we are doing everything wrong. This results in negative emotions like regret, shame, fear and guilt.
long term sustainable change is difficult for us. If we’re going to be successful we need a positive platform to launch from.
We have to break our goals down into manageable, bite size pieces. Goals need to be measurable and specific, not big and vague. Decide what you want to achieve long term then look at small, sustainable steps you can take each day to help get you there.
Don’t paralyse yourself with choice, this only causes overwhelm which in turn leads to procrastination, then nothing gets done. One of of the top reasons why people don’t take that first step is because they have too many options – find one way you connect with and stick to it.
And if you don’t like the thought of something, don’t do it – you will not stick to it if you don’t enjoy it.
We live in a world of instant gratification. We want everything yesterday and we rarely have to wait for anything these days, it is not doing us any favours.
Patience is vital, learning not to expect long lasting, significant results overnight will be your saving grace. You can’t change a lifelong behaviour in 6 weeks, it could take months or years.
Think about what you could achieve in one year, then five years, go crazy and imagine ten years from now. you could achieve so much in that period of time, so start now and imagine an exciting future being the person you want to be.
It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.
Time is a huge problem these days, it’s something we all lack and is often a barrier to change.
However, when you think about it differently it can be transformative. Instead of saying “I don’t have time”, say “it is not a priority for me right now”. This is very different. We all have the same amount of hours in the day and days in the week. Saying you don’t have time is the same as saying it is not a priority for you. If something was important enough you’d make time.
You have to prioritise and find out what’s important to you. Write down a daily diary and see what you can remove, is there anything you’re doing in your day that isn’t serving you? Maybe you could get up half an hour earlier, spend an hour less in front of the TV in the evening or spend less time on social media.
Essentially you have to work out what you want and whether it is a priority. If it’s not, let it go and accept it as it is.
Failure is not something to be feared, it is to be embraced and examined. We can often learn the most from the actions that haven’t worked out as we’d have liked. Figure out what went wrong, change it and go again. It’s all part of the process.
Think about babies learning to walk- they don’t just stand up and walk. they stumble and fall, but they keep getting up until they figure it out. and they all do!
Change how you think about failure and it will change everything.
Don’t fear change, fear being in exactly the same place a year from now. And don’t be afraid of what could go wrong, think about what could go right.
We fear so much all of the time, what will everyone think, what if it goes wrong, what if I’m not good enough. It holds us back and half the time we fear things that will never happen.
Don’t allow your fear of what other people may or may not think hold you back. If someone cares enough about you they will cheer you on. If they don’t, then ask yourself why it matters what they think?
Are you really going to hold yourself back because you’re worried about what others may say?
Surround yourself with people that will support and encourage you, find someone that has done what you want to do and follow them, take each day at a time and take small steps everyday.
I generally believe that those who are in a good place in life don’t feel the need to put others down, a lot of negativity comes from a place of insecurity. Focus on you and don’t worry about what others are saying or doing – it does not matter.
We are responsible for ourselves and our own happiness, so go get it.
Don’t try and change everything all at once, it would be unrealistic to believe you can leave your partner, get your dream job and lose three stone whilst training for a half marathon in the next two months.
Discover what area of your life is having the biggest negative impact and work on that one area. You may find that once you do that the rest naturally falls into place.
If you’re not honest with yourself you’re the only one that will suffer. If we can’t be 100% honest about out thoughts, feelings and behaviours we’ll never be able to change them. You’re only kidding yourself.
It’s not easy to be honest, especially when we’ve been telling ourselves stories over the years to justify our choices. We actually start to believe them. But don’t be ashamed, you’re human and we’ve all made questionable choices. However, if you can understand what lead you to that point you can address it.
Don’t look at one thing in isolation if you’re wanting to achieve long term change. for example, if you’re wanting to reduce your alcohol intake don’t just think about cutting back or ditching it all together. Look at what the triggers are for you, what habits have you picked up, or are you trying to bury a deeper issue? Be honest!
Think about whether there’s an underlying matter leading to you feeling unfulfilled. More often than not there is a deep rooted issue affecting your overall happiness.
In a lot of cases the behaviour itself isn’t the problem, it’s the way you deal with the problem. It helps to numb and soothe it whilst allowing you to ignore the fundamental issue.
Often our behaviours are connected by feelings which impact all areas of our lives, look for the root cause as this will help you understand why you’ve made the decisions you’ve made up to this point. Thoughts lead to feelings, so understanding these will help you move forward positively and confidently.
When we lack human connection, we search for it. That may be through alcohol, sugar, sex or video games, but whatever it is the drive is often finding meaningful connection. Could this be what you’re really searching for?
If our fundamental needs aren’t being met we search for other ways to satisfy ourselves. Think about joining a group or making more of an effort to socialise with like minded people. This will have a positive impact on your mental health and the area you want to change may happen more naturally.
A lot of us struggle with this. We don’t value ourselves enough or believe we are worth the effort. We’re not kind to ourselves, constantly putting ourselves down and generally thinking negatively about all that we are and all that we do.
Look at all you have achieved in your life, focus on what you do well and appreciate yourself for all that you are. Don’t strive for perfection, understand you’re doing the best you can with the knowledge and resources you’ve got. This is good enough.
Talk to yourself like you would your best friend, supportively, encouragingly and lovingly.
Being open to change is empowering and it puts you back in control. Life is constantly evolving but if you’re closed to change this will lead you to feel frustrated and stuck.
Change isn’t easy and there’s no magic wand, however if anything in this article resonates with you, you may be able to discover what is holding you back. Once you know this you can confront it leading you to feel more able to make the changes you want to make.