Having seen hundreds of people, including myself, struggle through the cycle of change unaware of its pitfalls, I now teach how to avoid the most common mistakes we make when we want to change.
Avoid these top 3 common mistakes and you can succeed at making positive change a regular part of your life.
There’s no need to wait for New Year’s Eve or school to start, change is always happening and you can make it happen to your advantage any time of year.
Common Mistake #1: Feeling that you aren’t ready to change.
There are too many things already going on in your life to make changes right now. You just need to get through fill in the blank and then you’ll be ready to tackle this change.
“You’re more likely to act yourself into feeling than feeling yourself into action,” according to Harvard Psychologist Jerome Bruner.
If you just aren’t “feeling it” chances are that you won’t feel ready any time soon. The fastest way to shift your emotions is to take action in the direction you want to feel.
The biological truth is that a feeling or emotion only lasts about 90 seconds in the body. It’s our brains that attach a narrative to that single feeling and spin it into a story that produces a mood that lasts much longer.
Don’t let that mood derail you, because it only takes about 5 to 10 seconds of courage to take action in the face of whatever emotion we are dealing with (hint, hint…it’s usually a form of fear in disguise).
Common Mistake #2: Taking on too many changes at once.
It’s almost the complete opposite of mistake number one, but just as much of a killer of change.
Especially during the fall months, our culture promotes more and more activity. We get excited and want to take on more and more changes to set our lives right.
The problem is that fall is also the season when nature is making things lighter. The wind picks up, the air dries out, and temperatures start to drop. In Ayurveda, this is the vata season, when the elements of air and ether strengthen and take us into winter.
If we add more and more change to the natural volatility and movement that is occurring in nature, we aggravate vata and it goes out of balance. The result is a sense of overwhelm and a lack of stamina. We give ourselves too much to process and we don’t recharge and ground ourselves in stability.
It may feel like it would be so much easier to just change everything at once, and yet, having a gradual approach to change will produce better and longer lasting results. If you really want to dive into and make change happen now, get super committed to making one small change today and then prime yourself to be super committed to building on that small change another tiny bit tomorrow, then repeat.
Common Mistake #3: Going it alone.
If you are serious about making changes that last, keeping those changes to yourself is one of the fastest ways to fail.
Being a proud individualist is a common cultural dynamic of the United States and other parts of the Western world. We learn from a young age to figure things out on our own and go after what we want as rugged individualists.
When it comes to making changes that last, going it alone means taking the slowest and most painful path.
Our brains are designed to quickly mimic each other. Therefore our environment and the people in it heavily influence our actions. When we are making a change that is not in line with the habits of the people in our lives, we find ourselves taking the actions of the group more often than the actions that we say we really want.
For example, you might never think of eating donuts on a regular basis but when the office manager brings them in for someone’s birthday and everyone else is getting their sugar fix it becomes much harder to hold to your intention to make healthy food choices.
While we can’t always change our environment and the actions of the people in it, we can connect ourselves to other people who are making changes similar to the ones we want to make. This group of people has to be super strong and dynamic. It has to keep building you up and moving you closer and closer to the kind of person you are becoming while allowing you to shed the skin of the person you have been.
Inevitably you will mess up. You will “eat the damn donut”, so to speak, from time to time. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. However, if you don’t have a dynamic group of people ready to help you reconnect with the change you truly want, you’ll find yourself feeling stuck in longer and longer setback periods.
Take the critical step that will keep you moving through the cycle of change faster and with greater levels of evolution each time. Join a dynamic group, like my Journey to Thrive coaching program, or start by simply connecting with people who value positive change and growth in my free Habits to Thrive group.
Photo credit: Ross Findon