Ever found yourself starting a new habit or a new line of thinking with a lot of energy and then notice that you lose steam somewhere down the line? This could be anything from a new fitness routine to an innovative marketing strategy for Instagram. The principle is the same.
Why does this happen?
Stumbling blocks on the road to change
The first challenge is that so many of us expect miraculous changes in the short term and when that doesn’t happen, we get frustrated and give up.
Another challenge? We’re scared of trying something new for fear of ridicule. Being different takes courage and all of us are wired to seek social love and belonging. It’s part of the human experience.
But the most important stumbling block of all and why it impacts long-term change is this.
It’s trying to implement change for the wrong reasons
Let’s take a habit as an example, such as waking up at 5.30 AM. What are some of the things you could try to make this happen and why don’t they work?
Being motivated to seek out a different path is great. However, motivation doesn’t last. It fizzles out very quickly, like a bottle of soda left open on a table. You can read a number of articles on waking up early or follow Instagram accounts of productivity experts to be inspired.
The truth? It is unlikely to last beyond the first few days or perhaps a couple of weeks. You’re choosing to rely on external signals to help with the change. Extrinsic motivation is reward-driven behavior and while the temporary high of achievement feels good, it very rarely sustains beyond that phase.
2. SPACE OF SHAME
Have you ever been shamed into doing something? Have you been made to feel small about the fact that you wake up late? There are two ways you can respond to this. One is anger and defiance. The other is shrinking even further into your shell and stop trying.
What actually works- The right intention
When I started waking up early, after years of being a night owl, it was because I was curious about the practice, ready to explore something new and had suffered enough from late nights to know the harmful effects. I started embracing the identity of a woman who wakes up early and that was the key.
This intention- the actual why- is paramount to effecting enduring change
But most people start from the wrong end of the stick and that is outcome-driven goals instead of starting from within, where the keys to change actually exist.
For 19 years, I hated to cook and did it only out of actual necessity. In my mind, the idea of cooking was time-consuming and stressful because I had begun to believe that I wasn’t a good cook.
Then, thanks to the pandemic and a lockdown in place, I started getting curious about the art of cooking. The more I explored recipes, the more I also studied methods of cooking. From buying quick mixes and powders, I learnt how to make them at home with a bit of trial and error.
Slowly, I learnt to believe in myself as a cook. And over the period of 9 to 12 months, I’d internalized the identity of a woman who cooks with joy instead of someone who dreaded entering the kitchen.
Change that endures focuses on the right intent- why you choose to do what you do. When that falls into place, change naturally follows and stays for the long term.
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About Shailaja V
I’m a content & productivity coach with over 14 years of writing, blogging and social media experience. Read my story & more about my work here.