Understanding Obstacles and Steps to Make a Change
Habits - we all thrive on habits and routine. When we do the same thing every day, things become ingrained in our day, in our family, in our being. There is a lot of comfort in keeping things the same. Many things we do whether healthy or unhealthy, don't require extra thought. We all like to be comfortable.
Change = thought + effort.
- Example, on the days when work is frustrating, the kids are screaming, the teens break curfew, and the house is a disaster, even the smallest thing, like avoiding soda and drinking water can send one over the edge. But staying comfortable in unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, soda, junk food, sitting on the couch all day, only makes you more irritable when the chaos ensues which then makes you crave your habits more. And a vicious cycle repeats itself.
- Psst - in reality, changing a habit like quitting soda is very hard for the short time, very hard. But in the long run, your brain will no longer be filled with sugar, caffeine, and garbage. You will be able to think more clearly and handle those teens with more calm and less explosive emotions. This in turn will make for less rebellious teens. Try telling a Coca cola drinker that.
Emotions - it is safer to stay the same. Change opens the door to failure, sadness, and frustration. You may already be sad and frustrated but you have become comfortable with those feelings around that specific issue. The possibility of new sadness and new frustration can be very scary. Fear is a very powerful emotion that surpasses most others. Fear is paralyzing.
- Example, people stay in unhappy and empty relationships because being single might be scary. What if loneliness is worse then the sad and empty relationship? I know many adults stuck in their jobs despite misery and hopelessness because quitting and starting fresh is scarrier then the misery they are currently feeling. And what if the new job ends up being worse then then one they currently have?
- Pssst- In reality, you will be sad and/or stressed at first, but a weight gets lifted off the shoulders when you no longer have to compromise, deal with a terrible boss, or walk on egg shells all the time around your boyfriend. You can focus on yourself and on what you truly want, rather then settling. Try telling that to anyone in a bad relationship or in a frustrating job.
Self doubt - a giant barrier to change. When we don't believe in ourselves, we feel the whole world is watching us and if we attempt something new and we cannot do it, we do it wrong, or we give up, "they" will see us as a failure, incompetent, and worthless. Self doubt and lack of confidence are immobilizing.
- Example, some people don't want to go to the gym because other people will be watching and passing judgement. But wait, isn't that what the gym is for? Change? Getting healthier? Building muscles you don't have? Losing the weight that is causing your unhappiness?
- Psst - In reality, no one is watching because most people at the gym are filled with the same self doubt and are too self absorbed in their own fear to watch anyone else. Try telling that to an overweight teen with low self confidence.
Environment - we create surroundings that are examples of our habits and emotions. People surrounding us come to depend on our habits and routines for their own well being. When we make a change, it will have a trickle effect on those surrounding us. Many of us anticipate that this trickle effect will be met with lots of whining, complaining, and lack of support. This can be overwhelming, so we start making excuses of why we cannot change. Excuses are Easy. Anticipating the unknown is Debilitating.
- Example, parents have a hard time taking away the pacifier in toddlers. Why? Because of the fear of crying, whining, and tantrums that will last days and weeks. They worry that the spouse will not be happy with this new horrid toddler, so they change nothing. The toddler's teeth become deformed and they get colds and ear infections week after week (from the plastic thing they put in their mouth and then drops a thousand times on the floor). But to lots of parents the bad teeth and ear infections are better tolerated then the anticipated screaming.
- Psst - In reality, the horror lasts 2 days. Try convincing tired/overworked parents of this.
Steps to Change
- Most of us want change to be fast, easy, cheap, and to require little effort (this is why the self-help industry is making a killing with words like magic, fast, easy, miracle, etc)
- Change is slow, frustrating, painful, filled with struggles, setbacks, and disappointment.
Sooooooo..... How do we change anything? How do we become unstuck?
so many of my teen patients have made remarkable changes. When I ask them, "how did this happen?", the unanimous answer is always, "I woke up one day feeling tired of the way I looked and the way I felt, so I decided to change things." Nothing more and nothing less. This epiphany has led to change in so many of my teen patients. And I mean huge changes. In many, the inspiration gave them the courage to revise their life.
it takes courage to break up from a bad relationship and jump into the world of "singles." Changing jobs is no small matter. Getting rid of juice from your house, taking pacifiers from toddlers, removing electronics from kids for a fresh start, can be as daunting to some parents as changing jobs or relationships is to other people. It takes a courage to overcome fear, self doubt, and to take a leap of faith.
Leap of Faith -
change comes with a lot of unknowns. You must have a belief in yourself and a trust your vision to make modifications in your life. Change is not easy, fast, or simple. There are setbacks, failures, and frustrations. But believing in your goals and in yourself will help you take the leap, and lead to determination.
the commitment to make a change. You get inspired to take a leap of faith, you find the courage to do it, now you need the determination to see it through. We all have it within us. Can you find it within you to make a positive life change?
In my next post in this series, I will discuss various changes that can be made within families for a healthier and happier year.
In Good Health, Ana Maria Temple, MD
PS - I used outlines from articles by Dr. Jim Taylor