Creating New HabitsPosted: January 13, 2012
I don’t always make changes easily. For example, we went to daylight savings time this fall, my body rhythms continued marching to the summer drummer for several days. I couldn’t stay awake past 9PM and woke at 5:30 AM. Of course, I did adjust and I loved myself even when I was off schedule. I’ve learned that much. I’ve also learned that sometimes change comes slowly.
I have spent a lot of years changing my mind, my habits, my emotions and my thoughts. I have also spent most of those years coaching or teaching others to change their thinking so they could change their lives. In that time, I have seen some remarkable changes but seldom without a bit of resistance.
Sometimes that resistance is overt. I put off losing weight for a long time because I absolutely didn’t want to change my food choices. I knew better but I went right on eating burgers and fries until I ran into big trouble.
In 12 Step programs most of the people you meet are fine folks who thought they could somehow “beat the system”. Despite the obvious trouble they are creating for themselves and their loved ones, they protect their habit. One of our favorite sayings in 12 Step programs is that we got here when we got sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Whether it is erasing a major behavior or simply adjusting to a time change that comes twice a year, my point is that if you want to change you can definitely do so. Whether change comes easily or with great struggle is up to us.
If we have difficulty with the change, it isn’t because we don’t know what to do; it is because we resist doing it. We settle for short-term gratification rather than the glorious feeling of achieving the goal.
Resistance to change is sometimes no more than simple habit. When the City of Encinitas opened up a closer road from my house to the freeway, I was happy. Nevertheless, I occasionally found myself taking the old path. I liked the new road just fine but I’d been taking the old one for about 15 years and sometimes I forgot there was a new one. I stopped making that mistake quickly and if I had not, I would have put a sign on my sun visor because it is silly to resist change that brings a five or ten minute gain in time.
We need habits to build our lives successfully but some habits need to be changed. And sometimes we do resist the obvious need to change the old road and take a new way to get what we want in life. When we resist, we are like children having tantrums.
Sometimes we are not certain the change will be of equal value but usually, we just don’t want to give up the immediate pleasure or pay off. Believe me, it is better to avoid hospitals than to eat potato chips. It is better to go to new places than to stay in the house by yourself all day long. It is better to save your money than to end up bankrupt.
Another cause of resistance is the fear of failure. We are afraid we’ll fail to stop drinking or to lose weight or to make friends or whatever. We are frightened and so we are tempted not to try. We become the fox in Aesop’s fables and say, “I didn’t want those grapes anyway, they were sour.”
It is one thing to tell us the grapes were sour if we try and fail. It is quite another to tell ourselves that we wouldn’t like them before we even try. Remember the old saying, “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man dies but one.”
The truth is, we are built to grow and to expand. It is normal and wonderful to reach for the goals we want to see in our lives and most of us in New Thought get pretty good at changing for the better. Here are some tricks I have learned over the years.
I like to print little reminder signs and place them around the house and in my purse so that I am constantly aware of what I am seeking. Keeping the goal “top of the mind” really helps.
I like to keep a record of my progress and that includes some notes about my feelings as well as my hopes and dreams. A notebook that charts food choices and has a few photos of clothes I plan to purchase when I lose that next 20 pounds is something I can look at on a daily basis and that helps me renew the goal.
Finding a mentor is always a good idea. Whether it is a sponsor in a 12 step program or simply a book written by a person who has achieved a similar dream, it is inspiring to know that other people have been able to change in the direction you are choosing.
I also like to start my day with a prayer that includes gratitude for all the things I’ve achieved, so far, in my life and acceptance of the next step along the grand adventure of expansion for the better. Whether you formally pray or not, it is a great idea to remind yourself that you have changed in the past and you have the capacity for more change today.
You can do it!
What are five things I’ve changed positively in my life?
What would positive change would I like to make now?