RK Tip of the Week|Making CHANGE stick: why it’s so hard to change behaviors

Posted on February 24, 2010


Humans tend to look for the negative. And we get distracted easily. Kind of like dogs, except they are happy & positive while they get distracted by their tail from their task at hand. Humans try daily, if not hourly, to change things about themself, their situation or about others. But often we fail to get over the hurdle because we stumble a bit & focus on that stumble (look for the negative) & then decide that something else is a more valuable use of our efforts than getting over this hurdle (easily distracted).

I’m reading a great book (given to me by a great coach) right now called Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard that focuses its’ energy on describing how we keep change from happening in our own lives, and how we can realize the ‘switch flip’ in our lives, for big changes & small. The authors note the truth that patterns we may follow regularly when we’re trying to make changes, may seem inconsequential in the moment, but are actually much greater hurdles because of how we let them impact our decisions moving forward from the stumbling point.

One, that we look for the negative. Say a person is wanting to exercise regularly to achieve better health. They work out a few days in a row, then miss the next 3 days. The typical person looks at the lack of commitment to regular workouts based off of 3 days of missed/skipped workouts in a row & zeroes in on what a failure-to-commit persona this person has. While it is true that 3 days of missed workouts in a row are not ideal for someone looking to get better health, there was something good in that mix that may have gotten overlooked or devalued amidst all the negativity. And that is that something inside this person motivated them to commit to sweat, discomfort, & scheduled times of focused effort for more days in a row than they may have done in a while (or ever!)

When trying to change: Feel a “well I suck don’t I” attitude coming on? Stop & look at what you failed to overcome & see what you actually did overcome in getting to that point. Did you change your behavior in some way that you hadn’t ever before? Did you schedule time for your goal where before you flew by the seat of your pants? Did you choose portion control during your entrée at the restaurant, even though you still ordered dessert, where before you’d have had a full entrée with an extra side AND dessert?

Find the thing you did well, and use that as momentum to move farther forward the next time out.

The second truth the authors note- that we get distracted easily. So we hit that hurdle, not quite getting over it this time…the slight slow down in forward momentum is all that it takes to make us re-think this whole thing looking for an easier path to happiness. Because really, all we’re going for with any change we’re trying to make is to be happier. Weight loss? Makes you happier. Running your company better? Makes you happier. Changing something big about society? Makes you happier. Everything we choose to do, we choose because of its’ happiness quotient for us. So when the hurdle is higher than we realize, we sometimes take that stumble as a subtle cue that there is perhaps an easier path elsewhere, and we should go now to search for it. But the truth is, that distraction away from the hurdle in search of a better path only keeps us stuck in 1st gear. We never really get the speed going to plow through these hurdles that ‘making a change’ bring with it.

When trying to change: Once you’ve decided on the path you’d like to take to make your change, be open to other options that may actually be faster, easier & net a better result, but be true to the notion you’ve had that there’s a hurdle ahead of you that you need to get over, and with focused effort, THAT is the hurdle you’re going over, not some secondary hurdle off to the left, not another lower hurdle that we think will have the same payoff (because it won’t).

There will never be a Desire in your heart that you were not Given the ability to achieve.

There are going to be things in your life that you need to change. Being able to assess the situation with a consistent focus to ensure you make the full & complete change is a critical skill that is well worth nurturing. Start today & assess the last time you made a big change in something – about yourself, about your situation, about the world around you. If it’s been a while you changed something, perhaps you should take a look out for something that will net a positive result if you decided you were going to change it!