Well, it’s finally that time…it’s a full two weeks after the start of 2014. And the year that began with us telling ourselves that this time it would be different…it probably isn’t.
Our resolutions to change our lives in small or large (or possibly very large) ways have been replaced with very rational reasons why we really can’t achieve those goals. Another definition of our rational reasons, is simply put, “Making Excuses.”
The real problem actually lies somewhere else. We have to understand that we all have a strong immunity to change, because change hurts. (However, assuming that the changes that we resolved to make were positive ones, change does not hurt nearly as much as the ultimate consequences of staying where we are.)
Change is actually our natural state. For example, our bodies are changing every day whether we do anything to change it or not. Approximately 98% of our body is completely renewed every year…new skin, new hair, new cells, etc. But these changes are involuntary, The trick is to make voluntary, willful changes that will make our lives better, and then stick to it.
There are strong competing forces to voluntary changes. We may make a statement of resolution to lose twenty pounds, and in the next breath exclaim how much we love to eat. These two competing commitments are at odds with each other and will drain us of energy. Another example is wanting to start your own business and wanting the security of your current job’s paycheck.
You logically know that you need to change some things, that’s your analytical brain speaking. But then your emotional brain interrupts and provides those rational reasons why it is easier to remain the same. In my corporate consulting, I tell business leaders that culture trumps strategy every time. The same thing is true in personal growth an development. The emotional brain trumps the analytical brain. The opposing attitudes cannot coexist. Eventually, most people will succumb to the emotional brain, the path of least resistance…and stay where they are – unhappy, but temporarily comfortable.
Winning this battle of countervailing forces requires a strong support system. Our humanistic culture says that if you simply have enough will power, enough internal fortitude and strength, that you can do it on your own. This is simply put, “not true.”
First, we need to understand and acknowledge that we can not do anything in our own strength, but we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Remember, those competing forces…we cannot do all things at the same time…we can’t lose twenty pounds and continue to eat the way we like. Seems difficult, doesn’t it? We make it far more difficult than it needs to be.
The way to get past the analytical brain’s defenses is to come to a different kind of resolution regarding the concepts causing our analytical brain to bristle. It is through self-directed learning that we develop moments of self-awareness or insight (in coaching, we call them epiphanies.) These moments of self-awareness are as soothing to the analytical brain as the unfamiliar is threatening to the emotional brain.
Self-directed learning helps you to discover an ideal vision of yourself and feel motivated in developing the abilities necessary to get you where you want to be. That is, you see the person you want to be—living with the capability necessary to create and sustain the new you. This personal makeover becomes the source of the energy required to work at the difficult and often frustrating process of change.
Decide who and where you want to be. Next look in the mirror to discover where you really are today—see how your habits are making you act, how others view you and what comprises your deep assumptions and beliefs. Some of this reflection will represent gaps between where you are and where you want to be.
The realization of the gap prepares you for developing a plan of action needed for the detailed guidance on what new rituals to try each day to make the new habit sticky while you build your strengths and move closer to your ideal self.
Here our some steps to simplify the process of achieving your goals.
Begin with a support system. Start professing your values, establishing priorities, writing out your S.M.A.R.T. goals and developing an accountability to God and to someone other than yourself for your actions. Make your resolutions known to people who are supportive, join a support group that will help hold you accountable, get a mentor, get an accountability partner or a coach.
In his book The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley writes. “You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better when somebody is watching and evaluating us.”
By now your emotional brain is probably giving you very rational reasons why you don’t need to change. And, you don’t. Remember, “change is not required, because survival is not mandatory.”
Who is helping you hold yourself accountable for your growth and development?