How many times have you heard – or said – “I know I shouldn’t do this, why am I doing it?”
As humans we seem to give ourselves a really hard time when it comes to forming new habits and replacing old unhelpful habits. The ones like eating too much chocolate, eating too much of anything, spending too much, drinking too much alcohol/sports drink/coffee, hitting the snooze button, watching too much TV, not exercising enough, saying the wrong thing and so on.
Making a personal change has 5 stages and until you understand those steps you’ll probably keep giving yourself a hard time for not changing quickly enough.
When we give ourselves grief we often give up on the idea soon after with the little voice inside saying “see, I knew you couldn’t do it” And then we go and do the very thing we were trying not to as a way of soothing the disappointment.
Or was this this just what used to happen to me? I know it’s not because many people that I have coached have been stuck in this same mental rut and pattern.
So, what are the stages we go through? For ease of writing I’m going to refer to the “issue” as a mistake. That seems to be a softer word for most people and allows room for hope that it can be changed.
- Realise that you made a mistake after the fact. Remorse alone is not enough, however it has often been said that no problem can be solved until you realise that a problem exists.
Congratulate yourself on phase one
- Realise that you made a mistake after the fact and know what you need to have done differently. Change cannot occur until a new or alternate pathway is identified. Now you know that you have made a mistake and what choice you need to make differently and at what point.
- Realise that you are making a mistake as you are doing it. This is where we usually get really frustrated with ourselves and give up. “I know in my head what I need to do, but why do I not do it?!”
The human brain is an organ of utter efficiency and it will always seek to take to smoothest, easiest and fastest pathway. That is why habits are so important as they allow the brain to do something very quickly and in a routine manner. The challenge comes when those habits become unhelpful.
- Realise that you are about to make that mistake and avoid it. You may only “just” avoid it, but you did it. Well done. This is also a frustrating phase because you will repeat this phase a number of times before the new habit is formed and is strong enough to supersede the previous habit.
- Realise that you avoided making that mistake that you used to make all the time and smile. This is where we can be tempted to celebrate and for anyone who has been on a fitness kick, please be aware of the temptation to “celebrate” with unhealthy food.
There you have it. The 5 phases to making effective personal change. Be kind to yourself as you proceed through the phases. Be aware that you will spend more time on some phases than on others.