Hard changes are made up of a gazillion small, easy decisions.
As mentioned in the introduction to this blog series, we need different strategies for different parts of our movements toward lasting change. In step one, I noted that we need to listen to all three brains, and to work our way around the Cycle of Readiness for Change. Between the part where we construct the change we want to make and the part where we create a habit that our whole being will lean into, we will have the greatest success if we make it easy.
Hard changes are made up of a gazillion small, easy decisions. In fact, we get to that place where body and being have acclimated to a pattern best when we make as few decisions as possible; When it’s easier to stay on a path than it is to fall off.
Yes, It IS a Mind Game
We play mind games with ourselves all day long. We might as well be conscious about it and use our powers for good. Once we’ve decided on the change we want to make, we will want to put obstacles between ourselves and the thing we don’t want to do, while making the thing we want to do easier and easier.
Gifts from the Preparation Stage
Remember Person A (to be known simply as “A” from this point forward,) from last week’s blog? As “A” worked through the Preparation stage in Step One many important points came to light. “A” figured out that they would be most consistent with exercise if they do something at home. They don’t really want to have to be publicly presentable, and this Omicron COVID Variant has them feeling pretty squishy about sweating and breathing heavily that close to a whole lot of other people who are also sweating and breathing heavily. While they eventually want to weight train and maybe finance an expensive piece of equipment, right now? They just want to know that they can consistently do something.
They also know that if they’re bored, they won’t keep doing it. So they plan to do some kind of something that can be done while also watching the morning news, listening to a recorded book, or – let’s be honest – watching that junky show that they don’t want anyone to know they watch. Perfect!
Secondary gains for the win! We’ll come back to that.
Planning for Success
“A” decides to pull out that knock-off Running Square (a big padded square you can run, walk, jump or do whatever on,) that’s been tucked in the back of their closet ever since they impulsively bought it four years ago. Fortunately, it looks like it’s still in good shape.
“A” thought through what could get in their way:
- Not wanting to get out of bed.
- Being distracted by all the other things that need to be done at home.
- Other people in their household expecting to be able to get their attention while they’re exercising.
- Feeling like it’s pointless, hopeless, not enough.
- Feeling like crap when they do it.
- Hurting themself.
“A” then made a plan to make it physically and emotionally easier to get up and exercise than it is to stay in bed and give up on the change they want to make.
Obstacle 1: Sometimes the bed is just too tempting. When “A” is lying in bed not wanting to work out, they sometimes pull out their phone and start watching… (SSSshhhhhh… not telling anyone which junky show!) And then the lightbulb comes on: They could just as easily watch the show while walking the board!
Getting into a pattern of getting up and moving is more important than having some magnificent, hardcore work out right now. So “A” walks that board and watches that show! If they get inspired they can always walk faster and harder, or even jog. If they don’t, they still moved their body and worked toward their new lifestyle. (AAAnnnddd… They finally find out why their favorite character did that incredibly dumb thing!)
Obstacle 2: They set the board up facing the corner behind the tv. Their view is limited. Fewer threats to pull them off point.
Obstacle 3: They recognize that their family doesn’t actually come to full consciousness until about 8am. Getting up at 7 isn’t really that bad. Besides, “A” is not awake enough at 7 to think through how much they don’t really want to get up and do this thing. Delirium can be highly functional at times.
Additionally, “A” starts setting up all of the things they do for the family the night before, making the family more “set it and forget it.” “A” sets their clothes out the night before too so they literally just have to roll out, throw the clothes on and get to it. Easy, easy path.
Obstacle 4: “A” knows from prior athletic experience that they won’t see the results of their work right away. They play a few mind games with themselves… Can they go 4 weeks without judging how their doing? Can they measure success by improved heart rate instead of body changes they want to see?
Obstacle 5: Electrolytes, electrolytes, electrolytes… “A” adds to their list to set up a water bottle with an electrolyte formula in it the night before. That should help. So does remembering that the more they do this thing, the faster it will feel better.
Obstacle 6: Any joint or muscle pain means they’re probably not using good form. They will do some research on that one, and also commit to stretching before and after. But that hasn’t happened yet, so… Don’t borrow trouble. That was an excuse. (Caught you, “A”.)
Each of those action points makes it easier for “A” to work out, and harder to not work out.
We Were Smarter in Kindergarten
Most Kindergarteners understand the power of rewards and how humans really think. We seem to un-learn that somehow as we get older. If a Kindergartener has a task they don’t like to do, but you couple it with a sticker reward system, (with enough shiny happy stickers at the end of the week to earn a fun little something,) they are often all in! BRING IT! Kindergarteners understand secondary gains.
As adults we think we are just oh so sophisticated. We shouldn’t need other rewards to make us do what’s good and healthy and right! If that’s the case, please feel free to go to work every day for the rest of 2022 with no paycheck. After all, you should want to be a responsible person and work, right?? RIGHT???
Ummm…yah. Rewards are still important, and they still work. “A” is using indulgence in that show as their first reward. If that stops being incentive enough, they will change up what they are watching, or listen to a book, or great music. Anything to keep changing it up and making it shiny.
Setting the Bar…Low
“A” wants to be in a place where they work out 5 times a week. They currently work out ZERO times a week. They know they can do 5! They did 5 for years! In fact, they used to do 6-7 workouts a week! They can do this.
Yes, they can. But if they set the goal at 5 now, they are very likely to miss the mark. Worse, when they miss the mark, they will start feeling defeated. They will likely get caught up in head tangles of not good enough messages. It’s going to dredge up their grief over no longer being a competitive athlete all over again. Statistically speaking, They aren’t likely to slide back to where they were when they started out; They are actually going to end up even farther back on that Cycle of Readiness for Change.
If “A” wants to get back to 5 workouts a week, they need to start much smaller. They need to ask themselves sincerely, on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident they are that they will meet a smaller goal. When that answer is no lower than 7, they have a viable goal.
“A” decides that they are confident to an 8 that they will be able to work out at least twice a week for the next few weeks. They can always overachieve their goal if they want to, but setting it at 2 and meeting the mark over and over again builds confidence. It also gives them a chance to notice what things still try to get in the way and make plans to overcome them, without compromising their success.
When 2 becomes easy, they shoot for 3. When 3 gets easy, they go to 4, maybe add some weights. Small, incremental changes built on multiple successes have traction. They’re also… easier.
It’s All Data
The other thing that clears the way for “A’s” success is treating any setbacks as data to learn from, instead of going into a tailspin of negative self-talk. This is not about “A’s” quality and worth as a human being, their prowess as an athlete, or any of that. It’s just data: What got in the way? How can they tweak the plan so that it doesn’t get in the way again? Data.
All of that data will begin to create a pattern. Patterns are magic! And we’ll talk about that in our next blog! Stay tuned!
If you’d like some support with making change easy in your life, contact Tiffany today! Let’s figure it out together.