How to Create Lasting Change
Here's the punchline. It's the small, easy, fun, enjoyable things that create lasting change.
I have been a student of change since as long as I can remember. A true Gemini, I get bored if I don't have some sort of change in my life pretty much all the time. I lived in 10 cities in 12 years. I have been a blond, a redhead, a brunette, and a blond again. I keep changing my furniture around and changing the style of my website.
Over my life, I have always been comfortable with change. Since I crave it, I have also learned how change can last and when it is only temporary. Here is what I have learned.
1. If you change for an external reason, it will not last. For example, 'I am going to stop eating sugar because my boyfriend thinks I'm fat.' Nope, not going to last. The first time that boyfriend looks the other way or upsets you, you'll start to mainline sugar through a straw off a dirty floor. You have to want to change for YOU, and the motivation needs to come from deep personal desire.
2. If you create a change that makes you feel more alive, it will last, but there will be hiccups. All change comes with ups and downs. It may seem easy at first to start exercising every day, but one day, you will be too busy to exercise. The key to lasting change is compassion and kindness. Just because you weren't 100% perfect doesn't mean you should give up on your goals. Take the ebb with the flow, and your changes will last a lot longer.
3. If you don't know why you want to change, you won't. It's important that you know the deeper, underlying "why" that's wrapped up in the change. I recently wanted to change my nighttime ritual so that I would feel more rested. The big "why" is that I wanted to have more energy during the day. At night when I felt the siren song of another project at 10pm, I asked myself how I wanted to feel tomorrow. I knew that the big why was that I wanted more energy, so it made the adjustment in my bedtime so much more meaningful and easy.
4. It's the things we do over and over again that define our lives and create lasting change. Our minutes create our hours, our hours create our days, our days create our lives. Change is wildly overwhelming when we are always looking for the end game. If you can stay present and realize that you are in THIS MOMENT, you will have an easier time with change. The old adage "one day at a time" works for people in recovery because it keeps people from looking to far ahead and getting overwhelmed. Changes to the present moment add up to a lifetime of changed behaviors.
5. Make the smallest possible steps towards your goal and make it super fun. I have tried to be a runner on several occasions but the change to becoming a runner has never, ever stuck for me. Why? I hate running and I always start out trying to run 5 miles. Now, if I was really interested in this habit, I would make the process as small and fun as possible. I may start walking with a great podcast adding in just a little jog for 5 minutes. The next day I may do the same but with some kickin' tunes and running 6 minutes. Small, fun, incremental changes last.
No matter what the change, the way to make it last is to make small, pleasurable, daily steps towards your ultimate life. If you are overwhelmed, change isn't fun. When you have fun, change can last forever.
What changes have you made in your life? How did you create a change that lasted?
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