As uncomfortable as this process is, it is in fact the beginning step in making a change. We have to think about it for a while and work it around in our heads. We have to explore the pros and cons of changing, get used to the idea that we’re going to interrupt the patterns of our life as we currently know it. Worst of all, we’re going to be doing it to ourselves! No outside force or other person is pushing us into this upcoming change. It’s all on us and isn’t that a tough pill to swallow! I’m laughing at myself here, because of all the things I resist, my own bright ideas are the things I resist the most. Or more to the point, making changes that will enhance my life and make it easier and happier seem to be the very things I resist the most.
Over time I’ve learned to allow myself this time of just thinking about it. Taking time to explore all the aspects of what the changes might look like takes the pressure off me. I don’t feel like I have to get started right this instant! Or else! When I give myself time to get used to the idea that I’m going to change, it makes it easier for me to actually do the work of changing when the time comes. And the time comes when I’m good and ready. Taking this time to think about maybe changing actually increases my desire to change.
So, what’s going on during this time of thinking that maybe I could use a change? A lot of questions, that’s what. I talk to myself during this phase and yes, I freely admit I’m a little crazy! That unsettled, unsatisfied feeling makes me crazy, so why not go with it! I start with asking myself, what’s wrong with staying the way I am? Why do I feel the need to change anything at all?
Another way to ask this is, how does my current behavior benefit me? My resistance to change can happen in any area of my life, but my biggest resistance is usually about diet and exercise. And let’s use the basic definition of word diet - as in everything I choose to eat is what makes up my diet. Exercise can be anything from parking the car a few steps further away from the door to spending an hour a day at the gym. My current habits have the big bonus of convenience. I don’t have to plan or cook meals in advance. I don’t have to put any extra thought into joining friends for lunch based on which restaurant will have something that I feel good about eating. I satisfy my taste buds and I feel like I always have treats on hand. My sweet tooth is well cared for! I don’t have to leave the house or pay for a gym membership.
Well, all that sounds good so why make a change? What is it about my current behavior that doesn’t satisfy me? This usually comes down to comfort. I don’t feel good carrying this much weight. My knees and my back ache when I’m overweight. The same goes for exercise. I tend to have more joint aches and pains when I’m sitting around all day and not moving. In addition to all that, my energy levels are low. The foods I currently eat don’t energize me and the less I exercise, the less I want to get up out of my chair. Also, my health is beginning to suffer. Those lab results that used to be dead center of the normal range are edging up close to the high-risk range. I don’t like that.
Okay, so far we have the pros and cons of maintaining the status quo and I’m not yet ready to change. I can see a potential benefit. In fact, I’ve experienced the benefits of making these changes in the past, so I don’t have to guess at the outcome. There are other positive sides to changing my diet and exercise habits. My digestive system evens out when I eat a more balanced diet. That’s part of the energy boost, but it’s also part of the comfort factor. My mood improves. I’m usually a pretty upbeat person, but I have my low times. Energizing food and regular exercise reduce my tendency to anxiety and mild depression. I know this because there’s research out there to prove it but also because I’ve experienced it for myself. I’ve also been able to see better results in my lab work when I’m on a more balanced diet.
Still thinking. Taking my time.
If there are all those benefits to changing my diet and exercise routines, what’s so bad about making some changes? Or more precisely, what do I think is so bad about making those changes? It requires effort on my part. It means I have to do something. It’s going to be hard to do. And it’s somehow not fair that I have to put forth all this effort to do what everybody else does naturally! When I hear myself say those things, or see them written down, I start to judge myself as being whiny or petty. But these are my thoughts, my reasons to resist change, and I want to honor them. I started myself down this road of thinking about change, so it’s only fair that I look at myself honestly and see if my reasons to resist are true or not. And if there is truth in some of them, can I look at them a different way or look at change in a different way? I’m not feeling great right now. Could it be that the discomfort of making changes is easier than I think and easier than staying stuck?
Okay, so I have to do something, and I think it’s going to be hard to do. I’m talking about change and that’s usually uncomfortable. But does it have to be hard? Yes, it’s going to require that I do some things differently. Is it possible that I could think of ways to make the changes fit my lifestyle and feel good? If my current habits benefit me by being convenient, how can I make the changes convenient? Maybe in the past, I’ve made huge efforts to overhaul my lifestyle in order to cook all my own meals instead of eating out 50% of the time. What if I worked eating out into my meal planning? I have to think about what I’m going to eat and plan it. Well, don’t I have to do that now? The choices I make are habit, yes, so it feels like I don’t have to put any thought into them. But making small adjustments, a few at a time, can make it easier to work the changes into a convenient new habit. If I can get away from all-or-nothing thinking and allow myself to take smaller, measured steps, the change doesn’t have to feel hard.
What about the exercise piece? Yes, that’s going to require that I do something and will take some effort. But I don’t have to go from totally sedentary to 5 hours a week at the gym all at once! Is there a way to think about exercise that isn’t intimidating? Can I be gentle enough with myself to allow for a slow build-up of increased movement in my life? I’m still in the thinking stage, so I don’t even need to come up with a plan yet. All I want to do right now is wrap my head around the idea that changing my exercise habits can be simpler and easier than I’ve experience in the past.
“It isn’t fair.” I’m not proud of this, but I feel it. I can see that I’m still that little kid, stomping my feet and throwing a fit because I have to do something I don’t want to do. This might just be the biggest source of my resistance. Is it really true? Can everybody else eat whatever they want and sit in a chair all day? Objectively, no it’s not true. Other people have food allergies and have to be very careful about what they eat and drink. Some people have physical conditions that require a certain amount of physical activity in order for them to be able to walk or move at all. Some people choose to plan what they eat and drink because it just feels good to them to do that. They see the benefits and don’t see the planning as an obstacle at all. Some people just love to exercise.
What if I compared it to other things I have to do on a daily basis. I have to wear glasses and because of my prescription I can’t wear contact lenses. No biggie. I just do it. Some people never have to wear glasses their entire lives. I’m not jealous of them. I don’t feel like that’s not fair. My feelings around food and exercise have been with me for years. I may not get over them in an instant. But it’s time to take an honest look at them and see if I can find a way to accept that this is no better or worse a fate than wearing glasses or being gluten intolerant. It’s just the reality of what I’ll need to do stay healthy and feel good. Instead of feeling like a victim, can I accept who I am and choose joyfully to do whatever it takes to feel good?
These are some of the questions I ask myself when I’m thinking about maybe making changes. I don’t set a time limit for thinking before taking action. I don’t put any pressure on myself to resolve all my resistance to change. I allow myself to live with the questions and make no judgment about the thoughts and feelings that come up for me. My goal is to be honest with myself and to explore every aspect about why I’m feeling uneasy now, yet resisting the change that might relieve that uneasiness.
Maybe, just maybe, I could use a change.