Why Is Behavior Change So Hard?
We think changing ourselves is easy when in fact, it isn’t. On top of that, we fail to plan for setbacks.
If you want to change the way you behave or live or really who you are, then you have to accept that it takes time. It can take 2 months to create a new habit, something so easy as drinking another glass of water a day. Most critically, you have to expect, plan for and even learn to like set backs, lapses and falling off the wagon.
Relapse is part of recovery and behavioral change. The problem is, we fail to plan for it.
When you experience a set back, you have two options. You can see it as a failure, as evidence that you can’t do it, or that you don’t have the will power required. Or you can see it as part of a learning process, anticipate it, greet it, accept it, manage it and move on.
When COVID-19 kicked in, I started exercising more. I was walking a minimum of 10K steps a day. I’d take the long route or while crossing big parking lots, I’d do a big circle, for no reason other than to get my step count up.
I was eating right. I was drinking water like a fish. In addition to walking constantly, I started doing push ups every day. Only a few months ago, I was able to do more consecutive push ups than at any other time in my life, and not just regular push ups. I was doing Diamond Cutters, Wide hands, Pike Push Ups, Staggered Hands and Spider-Man push ups and sets of them. I was getting all kinds positive feedback. I felt amazing and strong. I am almost 50, and six months ago I might have been stronger than I was at 25.
Not today though. Today, if you turn your speakers up high enough you can actually hear me getting squishy.
Then one day I noticed I hadn’t done any push ups in a while.
What happened was I had a setback that I had failed to plan for. I didn’t anticipate it. I had a plan to work out every day, but I didn’t have a plan to restart the machinery when the inevitable relapse occurred.
Failing. Falling off the wagon. Relapse. Whatever you want to call it, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was I wasn’t prepared with a plan, with a “In case of emergency, break glass” plan.
One of the primary influences for success is your ability to develop RESILIENCY. Specifically, how
QUICKLY you recover from setbacks and lapses. Do you shrug it off and get back on the horse, or do you scurry back to your old habits, full of shame and self doubt?
Today I am restarting the program. Eating, walking, drinking water and doing push ups. The difference is this time, I’m planning for and not dreading the relapse. It’s not falling off the wagon; the relapse is part of the process. You have to have a relapse to get where you want to go. The sooner, the better. When the relapse arrives, I will have a plan in place and this plan involves asking myself these three questions.
What did I learn from this setback?
Change isn’t going to be easy or straightforward and that’s okay.
Habits take a while.
The Lizard is a sneaky adversary that lays there and plays dead.
That to do anything to keep the momentum rolling is worth it. Something is better than nothing.
What needs to happen to get back into action?
I need a daily schedule and I need to be aware of it.
I have a “never miss 2 no matter what” rule in place.
I now have little alarms that go off through the day, to remind me to exercise.
I have a plan to execute for 22 days.
How do you want to treat yourself while working towards change?
I want to treat myself with patience and kindness.
I want to be on my side and remind myself that while I may have lapsed on my push ups, I am still a pretty amazing Dennis.
Anything to add?