I think that we all have some parts of ourselves that we would like to change. If you are reading this and you don’t’ feel like there are things that need work, I bet you aren’t very popular. Behaving poorly towards our spouse when we’re stressed, might be one. A bad habit or two that we just can’t break might be another. There are tons of things around the edges of parenting and family life that I hear and see frequently: yelling, nagging and losing one’s cool to name a few.
Whatever it may be, if an individual has determined that they want to change something ingrained, I want to offer a piece of advice. First a clarification:
1. Lapse: a slip up, a back-slide, a mistake
2. Relapse: full speed ahead into the old dysfunctional behavior one is trying to new-wire
Now the advice: expect a lapse. Prepare for it. Don’t deny it is a possibility. I am not encouraging you to use the likelihood of a lapse as an excuse to let yourself lapse. I am saying don’t think you are above it happening, get discouraged if it does and then relapse. Your choices to this point have wired you to do what you know. It took time and repetition to create the behavior; it takes time and repetition to change it. This is where we are different than tigers. We can learn from our mistakes. We can assess the damage of our dysfunctional patterns and make adjustment. We can new-wire. You might not notice the new-wiring as it happens, but you are changing. It is important to find encouragement other than observing your change. Change is rarely visible as it is happening.
In the 80’s, the purveyor of the dark-arts, David Copperfield, made the Statue of Liberty disappear in front of a live audience. Dave had an ingenious plan that fooled everybody into believing that he pulled off what we rational folks would deem impossible. Instead of moving the Statue, he moved the crowd! A huge curtain was put in place to hide the Statue and with all of the pageantry and hocus-pocus of professional wizardry; Dave drew attention away from the Statue. While he distracted the audience, the platform that they were seated on slowly and imperceptibly rotated away from Ms. Liberty. Once the platform was turned completely and the lights went back on there was no statue. The reason for this of course is that the audience was looking out over the water and the Statue of Liberty was actually sitting next to them. It was a simple, but brilliant idea! The change occurred so slowly that it couldn’t be identified while it was happening.
Sometimes change happens in a landslide, but more often, it is so small that it isn’t immediately detectable. Like Mr. Copperfield’s illusion, change happens in such small increments that it will only be noticed as a whole, later, when seen from a different perspective. I want to encourage those trying to change to be realistic. Don’t measure success by observable changes. Set a goal, make a plan and program milestones in to check progress.
Goals must be S.M.A.R.T.:
1. Specific: I want to lose weight (good). I want to lose 20 lbs (better).
2. Measurable: I will go to the gym (good). I’ll go to the gym 3 times a week and do cardio (better).
3. Attainable: I want to be a supermodel (not likely). I am going to lose two dress sizes (likely).
4. Realistic: I will be in shape for the marathon next month (really?). I will train for the 5k next month (doable).
5. Time specific: I will be skinny by the end of summer (good). I will loose two pounds a week for two months by running on the treadmill (better).
Go get after it.
Coming soon: stinkin’ thinkin’, anxiety other wonderful goodnesses