We’ve all been a victim to our amplified motivation and will-power only to be let down in the end when we returned to the habits and behaviors that got us started on our change in the first place. We lose 20 lbs. only to become 5 lbs. heavier than when we began in 6 months. We quit smoking for 6 weeks and then find ourselves back on our pack-a-day habit. We get organized in a flurry of excitement and a whirlwind of a weekend only to find ourselves not able to locate that same pair of shoes that set us off on this journey of self-improvement in the first place.
So what’s going to actually make these changes stick? How can we change for good and never go back?
You know, a lot of personal change (the same goes for organizational and governmental change) happens from the outside-in. We concentrate on the behaviors that are causing us the pain that we want to avoid and then seek to focus our efforts on telling ourselves to “just change it.” For awhile this may even work. But, in the end, the only thing that will matter is whether or not you decided to actually go to the root of your problems in order to overcome them for good.
Going to the root is effectively working from the inside-out. Sure, I’m presenting with an overweight body, a smoking habit, a drug addiction, an unorganized environment, or a bad habit of waiting until the last minute before I get anything done. But are those roots, or are they just the fruits on the tree branches that are being fed by the trunk and the roots? I think you know the answer!
If we want to become more skilled at creating changes in our lives that outlast the effectiveness of our motivational habits or our will-power, then we must practice the discipline of reflection. To reflect means to look upon your past with an honest and objective eye and really see for yourself what has caused you to become the person you are.
- What events got you where you are today?
- What mechanisms do you normally fall back on when you’re under stress?
- What behaviors are you presenting today that you’ve been struggling with since you were younger?
Now that you’re connecting your current pain with the pain of your past…ask yourself:
- Which habits and behaviors have you attempted to change in the past only to return to them again?
- What do you suppose were the reasons that you were unsuccessful?
If you can begin to be honest with yourself about where you are, then you can change the direction that you’re going. But, if you refuse to accept any personal responsibility for your life as it is, then you have given your power away and are deciding instead to stay in your state of learned helplessness.
Use the reflection above as a way to begin your process of creating a change that will last for you this year. And return for part 2 as we talk about the areas you’ll want to focus on that will make the biggest difference in your quest for a life-changing season.