“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
Change is the hardest accomplishment in life. You could even say that science is working against us. Newton's first law of motion can help us understand why change is so hard. It is sometimes referred to as the law of inertia. You may remember it better as:
“An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force”
People who want to make a change often don't take inertia into account. I see them get excited, inspired or scared, which leads them to make an overly ambitious plan for change. Once the energy of the moment subsides, the plan becomes overwhelming and soon comes to a halt.
For example, Valerie wanted to quit drinking alcohol and lose weight. Her plan to change her life included starting an exercise routine, giving up television, eating correctly and sleeping eight hours a night. She was not doing any of these things at the time, but expected herself to move at the speed of light, after being inert for a long time. She lasted about a week with her over-zealous plan and came to a screeching halt. This led Valerie to feel like a failure and sink deeper into discouragement.
I like to think about change as a marathon rather than a sprint. Just as it is impossible to run a marathon without training, preparation and coaching, it is not possible to create change immediately. There are steps and a progression involved in change.
Five Challenges to Change
The first challenge is to decide to change.
This is not as obvious as it sounds. To make a decision to make a significant change takes a lot of thought and time. It means looking at what motivates you. Is your motivation strong enough to get you though the hard times, when you want to go back to the easy way of doing things that you already know?
The second challenge is to decide what needs to change.
In Valerie’s case, did she need to quit drinking alcohol, or was her alcohol use a symptom of a larger problem? Was it a messenger telling her she needed a new job, new friends, new interest or a new relationship?
The third challenge is to decide where to find the help you need.
Deciding to change and being motivated is not enough to take you down the road to where you want to be. Everyone needs help. Yes, everyone needs help. The help may come in a book, a friend, a partner who wants to make the same changes, a coach and/or a therapist. It may even be a program designed to help your kind of change: a bootcamp for exercise, or a self-help program such as Alcoholics Anonymous. There are many kinds of support groups available
The fourth challenge is to move the stationary object…you!
The hardest part of creating change is getting started. Part of the problem is that we are more focused on the present moment. We think that we will start later in the day or tomorrow, but tomorrow comes and the challenge is no easier. We forget that the future is determined by what we do now. We cannot control life and the unexpected occurrences, but we can have great impact on how we move
into our immediate future. The future starts today.
The fifth challenge is to make a commitment.
Tell a friend. Put it on the calendar, make it a recurring event and set reminders. The activity will show up even if you don’t. We make appointments, go to meetings, have time with friends, make time for our favorite television show, but we neglect to plan the
necessary activities to become who we want to be. Incorporate the activities for change into your current life. Meet a friend to take a walk before going to lunch, make a commitment that supports change that you will feel bad about not fulfilling, join a fun class, find a new hobby.
A final consideration: plan for help for the home stretch.
The road can get long and hard. When there is a marathon, teams of volunteers are enlisted to give out water, to shout encouragement and praise. Sometimes, people run with a person who is tired and wants to give up. The runners know that they are not alone and have positive support with them in those last hard miles. Plan that support for yourself. You will get there. Your future starts now.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr.