How To Make Lasting Change In Our Lives
If there’s anything we’ve learned over the course of 2020 is that we can expect anything to happen. From the pandemic and social unrest, economic uncertainty, working and learning from home, the sudden and dramatic changes to our everyday lives have offered everyone lessons.
While we were busy with our day-to-day lives, we tended to ignore things that may be more important to us, namely our health.
It was an easy thing to do, overlook our overall health and wellbeing. Bills pile up, the kids’ activities take a considerable portion of our day, work would take more and more of our attention simply, we were pulled in too many different directions at once.
The pandemic’s sudden stoppage on our daily lives has allowed us to reflect on areas of our lives we need to improve.
Being home continually has allowed each of us to reflect on what is and what isn’t essential from spending too much money on going out to bars and restaurants and spending on clothes to wear for that “special occasion” that we only wear one time.
We’ve come to recognize all other types of waste in our lives, and if there’s anything we should learn from this situation, we need to prioritize ourselves over our things.
So by prioritizing ourselves over our things, it’s easier to see areas we can improve ourselves. As it’s almost the end of 2020 (yay!), it’s easy to think about significant changes and make big resolutions.
Waiting until the new year to start a new habit such as a new diet is a fun idea but not the most practical.
Why Behavioral Changes Fail
Studies have shown that roughly 80% of resolutions made at New Year’s fail. The main reasons we fail with our New Year’s Resolutions is a combination of trying to achieve the benefit from a change before we make a behavioral change, we lack accountability to someone that can hold us to our goals, and the fear of failure causes us to, well, fail.
One of the main factors is that when we set out to make a dramatic overhaul, whether to our health, habits, or businesses, we lack a specific plan and burn all our energy and desire for change before we accomplish much.
If we have a broad sweeping overhaul in mind and find small actionable tasks that we can do quickly, that generates a momentum all its own and becomes easier to maintain.
When asked about developing his style as one of the most successful comedians of all-time, Jerry Seinfeld’s advice was simple; write one joke every day.
When it comes to our health, it’s better just to get started making small incremental changes than it is to make some significant change. We want to focus on doing one thing for a few weeks to stick to before tackling another change.
Make Incremental Change Permanent
These small incremental changes are more comfortable to accomplish, easier to maintain, and therefore become more permanent.
The goal is to find small tasks or accomplishments that can be done easily and quickly before adding more difficult changes.
For example, let’s say that your goal is to begin exercising more. Most people who struggle with that objective is because it’s too broad and not defined as a goal for starters.
Once they start with a general goal, it’s harder to maintain, and achievement is more difficult to define. Other factors that affect the “stick-to-itness” is because they just go out one day and run until they’re tired.
The next day, soreness sets in, and while you are still motivated to run, you’re sore and exhausted in a couple of days, and the motivation to get moving isn’t the same. During that first week, the small gains you made slowly eek away as you begin to slow down and lose interest.
Instead, you should set a realistic goal of starting your workout program on, say, a two-days on, one day off, with a mixture of some light running and walking. Try 20 minutes the first week and increase it by 10% each week after that until you meet the goal you’d like to achieve.
Whether you’re looking to start to exercise more, spending habits, and money-saving, or looking to make a change from what you usually eat to a clean diet, focus on small incremental gains for 21 days to see habit differences and lasting change.
If you want to make lasting changes in your behavior, the first thing you need to do is understand that behavioral change isn’t possible with significant, sudden change. Making marginal improvements over time is the goal of making those changes permanent.