I don’t know about you, but I find people can be kind of antsy this time of year. As people in the Southern Hemisphere come out of winter and those in the north return from summer holidays, we tend to catch ourselves wondering what happened to all the promises from the start of the year.
Be assured, it’s not too late.
Before 2017 slips further away, let’s look at how we can re-set and get the most from the months ahead.
Step 1. Provoke yourself to change
I’m guessing you might know what you want to change, but that doesn’t mean you will. For that you need to provoke sufficient motivation.
The best way to go about it is to use cognitive dissonance, creating tension in your own mind between your current and desired behaviour. Here are the six questions to ask yourself:
1. What is my current behaviour (A)
2. What is my desired behaviour? (B)
3. What are the benefits of staying the same?
4. What are my concerns about staying the same?
5. What are my concerns about changing?
6. What are the benefits of changing?
Questions 1 & 2: Current vs desired behaviour
The first two questions look at your current and desired behaviour. They will help you understand the scale of change required, as well as get specific on what you are actually talking about.
The next four questions are based on Wellness Coaching Australia’s Decisional Balance tool, which have been designed to explore the pros and cons of old and new behaviour.
Question 3: Benefits of staying the same
You start by acknowledging there’s an upside to staying the same — you are comfortable, it relaxes you, your friends expect you to do it and so forth. These are the barriers preventing you from changing.
Question 4: Concerns about staying the same
Next you explore the downside of staying the same. These are the things that have been playing on your mind — you are in a rut, you are putting on weight, you are getting stressed — which you can leverage to make the status quo seem unpalatable.
Question 5: Concerns about changing
At this stage an interesting thing happens. The positive tension you feel about sticking with your current behaviour starts to be quelled by the concerns you have about making the change. Here you need to list out what is scaring you about the new behaviour, such as fear of failing; uncertainty about how people will see you; being unsure of what it means for your identity or relationships; or simply the fact that it will be difficult. If you stop here you will likely talk yourself out of making the change, so move to question six.
Question 6: Benefits of change
This is the payoff — why your life will be better if you make the change. Allow yourself to bathe in this question, imagining yourself in your new world. You will be fitter, healthier, happier, more productive, and a better lover/parent/friend/colleague, for instance. If it helps, create a vision board and really bring your new self to life.
Step 2. Re-set your habits
Now that you have the determination to change, let’s look at what to do to make it happen.
1. Don’t rely on feeling motivated
First, don’t rely on feeling as motivated as you do right now. Motivation ebbs and flows like a wave, so plan your new behaviour around peaks and troughs. When you are highly motivated, do the tough stuff so that on those days when you don’t feel like adhering to your new practice, it is easy.
2. Tweak your environment
The easiest way to support your new behaviour is to modify the environment around you. This might be your social environment (hanging out with people who already model the desired behaviour and ditching those who don’t), and/or your physical environment (making it easy to do the right thing and difficult to revert).
3. Focus on what triggers the behaviour
Your behaviour is a reaction to something that happens to you or within you. Hunger drives us to eat, sunrise wakes us up, red lights make us stop and a phone ringing makes us answer. To stop an old behaviour, you can identify the trigger and try to remove it or yourself, and to start a new one, make sure you have a clear trigger to remind you.
While there is plenty more to know about habits, by focusing on your desire to change and taking a few steps towards re-setting, you’re sure to make the most of 2017. Don’t let the rest of your year go to waste.
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