Making Changes Stick
Whenever you are trying to make personal changes, from managing your attitude to managing your weight, you have to make a commitment to changing your old habits in order to be successful. When you face certain challenges that hit you when you’re tired, frustrated, or stressed, your natural tendency is going to be to revert back to your old ways of coping. Your old habits are comfortable, easy and require very little thought or effort to follow. New habits, however, require your attention and a certain amount of focus and energy to consistently apply.
To help navigate through those times and still be, relatively, on track towards your goal, it is important to anticipate what kinds of circumstances are most likely to occur that will tend to throw you off of your new commitment. This may be stress from work, family or finances, or it may even be some physical or emotional pain triggered by something in your day-to-day life. The more you can take the time to anticipate your stressors, the better you can prepare to get through them and still work towards your goal.
Although you cannot anticipate everything that may add to your stress, by anticipating and managing your known stressors, you position yourself to more successfully respond to the ones that seem to come out of the blue. By anticipating likely problems, you can make a strategy for dealing with them.
Procrastination can be one of the most damaging habits when it comes to self-improvement. When we procrastinate, we often feel victimized by our circumstances, as if we are caught in a cycle of continually responding to one urgent need after another.
When we procrastinate, we increase the stress and feeling of dread over what we have to do. By proactively working ahead on your obligations, instead of playing catch-up, you generate a greater sense of being in control of your life. You also position yourself to be much more successful in managing the unexpected distractions that will inevitably come along. Staying caught up gives you a cushion to absorb surprises without throwing you into a tailspin.
The more you can break your commitment to change into smaller steps, the easier it becomes to envision your success. Thinking of a lifetime of change may seem overwhelming, but making one tiny decision right now can seem more manageable. Done consistently, before long you have a string of good decisions that all build toward your success.
Think of it like using a compass. To prevent walking in circles, you check your compass, then pick a point (e.g., a tree) in the direction you want to go. Once you reach that point, you check your compass again and repeat the process. While the vision you have for yourself serves as your compass, you have to fix your eyes on the smaller steps in front of you to move in a consistent direction and make your vision a reality.
Larry Deavers is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and Executive Director of Family Counseling Service of West Alabama.