Last week, as I talked with a friend about Change Anything, I explained how invested we are in helping people make real, lasting lifestyle changes, rather than relying on quick fixes. It’s troubling to see many people put time, energy, and money into programs or solutions that they just can’t keep up forever. When their stamina runs out, they fall back into old habits; they’re left with the extreme frustration that comes when you try your hardest but eventually fail.
“Well,” my friend said, “It’s like the old saying: ‘Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’”
He’s right–the adage can easily be modified to apply to other areas of change. If you’re interested in losing weight, the corollary might be, “Choose a lifestyle you love and you’ll never diet a day in your life.” By approaching change with a long-term attitude, you can come up with sustainable solutions and you won’t be forced to “gut it out.”
Can you live with yourself?
We’ve all had the experience of identifying something we’d like to change, then making a plan to achieve that goal. Plans are great, but will they work?
Not long ago, I had the goal to wake up earlier and be more productive in the morning. I planned what I would eat for dinner, what I would do in the evening, and what time I would go to bed. Then I set my alarm for 5:30 AM. The problem was that I was regularly waking up around 7:00 AM. With how hard it is for me to wake up, I should have known that a full hour and a half earlier than my normal wake-up time was probably unrealistic.
When you launch yourself into a new debt relief plan, weight loss strategy, or tactic to improve your relationship, you should stop and ask yourself the question, “Can I keep this up?” Or, “As long as I’m doing this, can I live with myself?”
If you’ve set plans that are so painful or drastic that they won’t last more than a week, you should re-think. In fact, any plan you come up with should be something that seems reasonable, like you could enjoy it for months or years to come. A new behavior might be slightly uncomfortable, as you get used to it, but if it’s downright painful it’s unlikely to last.
Success is a Side Effect
One reason people tackle drastic strategies for change is that they think they only need to sustain these strategies for a short period of time, until the problem is solved. “As soon as I get back to where I used to be, I can go back to living my life like normal.”
These type of change strategies are treating the symptom, not the problem. It would be like treating a broken leg with Ibuprofen; the pain might go away temporarily, but eventually the pain will come back because the leg is still broken.
When you begin to tackle a significant personal change, the “success” that you see will be a side effect of the lifestyle changes you make. For example, your goal shouldn’t be to lose weight; your goal should be to live a healthier lifestyle, which will result in weight loss. As you make plans to tackle behavior change, pay close attention to the core behaviors you need to implement, rather than simplistic solutions that will temporarily alleviate the pain.
If you focus your changes on creating an enjoyable, long-term lifestyle, you’ll feel more satisfied with your progress and confident about your ability to maintain your new habits forever.
A Happy Life
When I’ve spoken to some people about creating lasting lifestyle change, they understand that to mean that they’re destined to a life of plain carrot sticks and celery. That just isn’t the case. If you absolutely hate carrot sticks and celery, forcing yourself to eat them will most likely drive you to your old, indulgent habits.
Finding a life-long solution means balancing reasonable, healthy habits (that you can actually enjoy) with occasional treats and pleasures. Work to try small changes to your habits and behaviors that will be sustainable and satisfying and the reward will be long-term success rather than temporary pain relief.
Max Ogles is a content and user engagement specialist for Change Anything. Follow him on Twitter.
Image credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN on flickr