Where did the Summer go? September always seems to be a time of change, this year more than ever.
I’ve moved house, my youngest is about to go to University. Change is happening to me, whether I like it or not. The house move was sudden and unwanted, my daughter going to University was foreseeable, but neither have been easy to get comfortable with, so it’s been a stressful Summer.
It got me thinking about the prospect of change generally, and the superhuman efforts we go to, to keep things the way they are. Even when things aren’t they way they are any more, and even when we really want to change, it’s hard not to keep the past nailed into place, to revert back to the old ways.
So how can we make personal change stick? How can we do it with less effort, maybe even welcome it occasionally? Research shows that will power isn’t enough, it’s a finite resource, and quickly depleted.
1) Momentum is important. Define the small steps and make some progress towards your big goal every day.
2) Instead of willpower, use your environment to give you simple cues that will automate your thought processes. “If I’m in the bathroom, I need to floss my teeth”. “If I feel like I want to eat a doughnut, I distract myself with a Sudoku puzzle. I keep the puzzle book in the kitchen, where the doughnuts used to live”
3) Don’t make your new habit a standalone thing. Incorporate it into a set up routine. “When I make an important phone call, my setup routine is X, Y Z. Then I’m ready to make the call”
4) Make it easy on yourself. The Walker brothers were right. If you’ve decided to go for a run first thing in the morning, get your kit ready the night before, leave it where it’s easy to pull on before you have too much time to talk yourself out of it, and before anything else in your routine can get in the way.
5) Get your story straight. Why are you making this change in the first place? What are the long-term benefits, that your future self will thank you for. What does it say about you, about who you are, who you were, and who you’re going to be?