How to Make a Change When Change Is Hard?
Change is hard.
We all know we should eat healthy and exercise, to stop procrastinating and start investing, but how many of us put the good advice into practice? We want our kids to fare better than us, but how many of them actually listen?
After living on two continents and making several career transitions, I’ve encountered many changes in my life. Here’s what I learned from my years of struggle to make successful changes. I hope it will help instill positive changes in your life.
1. Make good habits easier to implement.
2. Make bad habits harder to sustain.
Here’s a historical fact that explains why change is hard.
Our current keyboard arrangement remains the same as the original typewriter, where letters are arranged in a way to slow you down by 75%. It was because if you typed too fast on an old-fashioned typewriter, the keys would get stuck. To resolve the issue, the manufactures arranged the common keys further apart to slow people down. Now, we no longer worry about stuck keys. Still, we keep the same keyboard design from 150 years ago.
So, the next time you want your loved ones to change their behaviors, think about the outdated, cumbersome keyboard arrangement you’ve grown so used to. Knowing something is good for you doesn’t mean you’ll do it. All smokers know nicotine is bad, but they like how cigarettes make them feel.
To make changes stick, you have to do two things at the same time:
Make good habits easier to implement.
Break down a change into tiny steps. My teenage son has been doing three hundred push-ups a day for a few years. He started with only one push-up a day. By making a goal ridiculously easy to obtain, you build up confidence and tolerance over time. James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, talks in great detail about setting up mini goals toward a new habit, then scale it up once you become comfortable with the effort.
Another way to encourage the adoption of a good habit is to set up a reward system. Reward yourself for each incremental milestone you achieve. Celebrate your wins, no matter how small they may seem. The goal is to keep yourself motivated day after day until the new habit becomes second nature.
You should always have a backup plan. Take the example of working out, many of us have the experience of quitting exercise after a vacation or an illness. Think of an alternative for such incidences. If something stops you from continuing what you’ve been doing, can you identify a few other things to do for the time being until you can resume your practice?
Make bad habits harder to sustain.
Research finds that moving your favorite junk food a few feet away helps curb the urge to snack. Want to eat more vegetables? Fill up your plate with the greens first. When you’re half full, move on to the foods you like.
It is just as important is to identify strategies to overcome the urge to slide into old habits. Make a promise with friends or family. Tell them to remind you of the promise you made when you can’t stop yourself.
If you have a bad day or are not feeling well, reach out to loved ones for encouragement and support. Watch your favorite movie, TV program, or read a book to transport you to a different place and time. Anything that takes your attention away from temptation can help you break a bad habit.
This Time magazine article goes over five science-approved ways to break bad habits. Read it and see which one you can implement right away. It’s never too late to make a change. Now is always the best time to start.
What do you think?