One of the biggest challenges we face in life is making lasting change. Whether we want to lose weight, be less reactive, or simply get more exercise, changing our habits can be extremely difficult.
So why do we fail?
One of the main reasons is that we don’t have a good plan in place. Habits are powerful because they are automatic — we don’t have to think about them, we just do them. This means that if we want to change a habit, we need to be very intentional about it. We need to have a plan for what we’re going to do differently, and that plan needs to be specific and realistic. Without a good plan, it’s all too easy to fall back into our old habits and routines.
Another reason we fail to change is because we don’t have enough structure in our lives. Change is hard enough on its own, but when our lives are chaotic and uncertain, it can be even harder. Having a routine and some structure can make it easier to stick with new habits because there’s less opportunity for things to go off the rails. When everything feels up in the air, it’s much easier to rationalize skipping a workout or eating something unhealthy.
The Phases of Change
In his book “Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes,” William Bridges discusses the three phases of transition which are: endings, the neutral zone and new beginnings. Understanding these phases can help us to navigate through life’s changes with greater ease and grace.
- Endings. Endings occur when we let go of the past and prepare for the future. This can be a time of great upheaval and uncertainty. It is important to allow ourselves to grieve our losses during this phase in order to move on.
- The Neutral Zone. This second phase is a time of limbo, when the old has ended but the new has not yet begun. This can be a confusing and frustrating time, but it is also an opportunity for growth and exploration. We may need to let go of our old identities during this phase in order to make room for something new.
- New Beginnings. Now we finally enter into the new chapter of our lives. This can be a time of excitement and hope. We may need to take risks and step out of our comfort zones during this phase in order to create something better for ourselves.
Which phase tends to trip you up? Why? Many people struggle with the losses that inevitably accompany endings. Others may rush through the neutral zone because they are uncomfortable with the uncertainty it brings, which is made all the more difficult if they haven’t processed the ending they just experienced.
“Change,” says Ross Ellenhorn PhD, “is about tension — between where you are now and where you want to be.” The higher the stakes involved in our desire to change, the greater our fear and anxiety and the stronger the tension between now and “when.”
Dr. Ellenhorn says although we glorify the benefits of transformation, most of us, to our detriment, have barely scraped the surface of what holds us back. He further says that we must understand at both a cognitive and emotional level that we have a multitude of very sensible reasons to avoid change. We can ignore, rationalize, devalue, deny, or minimize them, but we won’t overcome them — and make the changes we yearn for — unless and until we address and take them seriously. Everything that we really want is on the other side of fear.
An Invitation to Create Real Change
Our invitation is to create change in our life by developing habits and routines that support our goals. This may mean getting up early to exercise, packing our lunch the night before work, or taking some time each evening to relax and wind down. Whatever it is, having a structure in place will make it much easier to stick to your goals.
If you want to get good at something, you need to practice doing it over and over again. To be specific, it takes 300 repetitions to develop a bodily memory of a skill and 3,000 repetitions to fully embody it. Therefore, start practicing right now. Additionally, try to surround yourself with people who support your efforts and who you can rely on for motivation and encouragement.
Change can be difficult, but it is often necessary in order to create a happy and more fulfilling life. Remember, change is an opportunity for growth and transformation. Embrace the change and see what amazing things happen as a result. To learn more about building positive and productive routines and habits, creating change, and improving your leadership skills, contact Claudia for a consultation.