Make or Break?
The way I see it, there are three types of New Year’s resolutions, 1. The desire, or a vague idea to change something in some way 2. The decision to break a habit or change old behaviour 3. The intention to create a new habit or develop a new skill Vague resolutions such as to ‘be more healthy’, ‘take more exercise’, ‘lose weight’, or ‘get a better job’ need to be given the smart treatment. If they are ever going to progress past the wistful stage, they need to be: S pecific M easurable A achievable (or agreed, if planned in conjunction with someone else) R ealistic T ime bound For example, if wanting to lose weight or change your body shape, firstly ask yourself WHY? This will help you to clarify and strengthen your intention in your own mind. When you are clear about what you want, others are more likely to be able and inclined to help you.
Specify HOW you intend to make the desired changes. For example, you may decide that you need to change your eating habits and exercise routine. Ask yourself how much weight do I want to want to lose or WHAT size or shape am I aiming for? This is important as we gain greater motivation for change when we can see that we already have, or are making progress towards our goal(s). Be real about it. Set yourself too unrealistic a target and you are just setting yourself up to fail. That’s not a useful loop to set yourself up in. Given the variables of time; resources; and current level of ability, set yourself an achievable goal. Ask yourself, could most people achieve this? If the answer is yes, then, in the absence of some rare idiosyncratic variable, then so can you. Decide WHEN you are going to take the necessary action and WHERE you can find support and resources. Ask yourself WHO can help you, and take any assistance or advice that is offered.
The more information you have available to you, the more informed will be your choices and the greater your chances of success. When trying to break a habit, I have found it most useful to replace the said behaviour and accompanying/supporting behaviours with another activity. It is important to acknowledge the other habits that might support the main behaviour, as they provide you with more opportunities to intervene. For example, if you routinely smoke at certain times, rearrange your schedule so you no longer have that time available; if you tend to eat unhealthy foods at certain places, choose an alternative place to eat; and if you engage in particular activities (that you now wish to avoid) with certain other individuals, avoid being in their company. The changes do not have to be dramatic or absolute, just one small change, such as doing something different one evening a week can help to break down the old routine and kick start the build up of a new pattern of behaviour. Basically, take responsibility for where you go, and what you do with whom. You created the habit, or recurring situation and you can now create something different. Allow yourself alternative choices; and actively create new opportunities for yourself. This in itself, can then become a new habit. If trying to establish a new habit be realistic about your existing ability, time for practice, current schedule of responsibilities, available resources to discern what and how you can expect to progress in what time.
For example if you wish to develop your yoga practice, • decide which stage you are already at, and where you would like to be at • Work out how much time you can devote to the practice and the time/days that are most convenient for you to practice. · Some people find that scheduled classes are more motivating, in that a new social support networking opportunity is created. If that’s you, check out the classes in your area. If you prefer to practice in private or at a time when classes are not scheduled, source a variety of DVDs and plan a month’s schedule for yourself, in advance. When trying to make or break a habit, it is effective to recall a time when you have managed to achieve a goal and reflect on how you managed it. What steps did you take? Which aspects of the process were you good at? Humans are notoriously unsuccessful at transferring the skills we use in one situation to another, especially problem solving. However, once aware of our strengths it is possible to apply them in what appear at first to be a very different scenarios. Remember, the change starts NOW and is a current, on-going process. If you’re not practising your change of routine, you’re practising the old, well- rehearsed routine… again! And, as practice improves performance, new practices need constant attention. Keep your intentions and actions live in your attention and they will strengthen and become more comfortable. Lose your concentration and you will automatically default to the old settings and habits. This may sound an exhausting process, but if you try it you will be pleasantly surprised. Resisting things always takes more effort and energy than simple awareness and focus. For a timely reminder of the psychological stages of change we progress through, check out the previous blog of 11th January 2010, titled ‘Are you ready?’ If you feel yourself being enticed away from your new behaviour or are close to relapsing into your old habit, remember the first step is your thought to do so. It’s at that thought stage that you need to intervene. Identify the first thought that leads down the road towards your old habit, and you can switch routes at that earliest stage. However, intervention at the action stage is still possible. For example, if you reach for that cigarette or drink, it is always possible to intervene as soon as you are aware of what you are doing and correct your choice of actions. Remember at all times and in all situations you have the choice, The choice to stay or to leave. The choice to continue or to desist. The choice to change. It is crucially important to reward your own efforts No-one else can know (or appreciate) the full extent of your efforts, so you are best placed to support and encourage yourself, in whatever way(s) work(s) for you. And finally, if you have the tendency to be hard on yourself, especially in scenarios of perceived failure, remember that people effectively shut down when treated in a negative manner whereas we thrive on positivity. Be generous with your positivity, then sit back and witness the growth of well-being and prosperity inside, outside and around you. View creating change as a cycle within the great cycle, circle or sphere of existence; and choose a clear, bright creation to reflect the change in you.