Stay on track and keeping it going! How has your battle-plan worked out?

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Stay on track

Stay on track: In the last issue of Muscle Media Magazine, we talked about some tactics to get you started with your “Big Changes” on January first. Well, here it is; March… How has your battle-plan worked out…? Still on track? Still holding to your carefully-made plans? Did you follow the multiple suggestions to help you on your journey? Did you track your progress? Did you write it all down?

If the answer is “yes”, you probably have no need for this article… If you begrudgingly admit “no”, then let’s talk…

As a bit of a review, lets’ start with the basics. Most people find that changing behavior is difficult. Even if the changes are for-the-better, adopting new behaviors presents numerous challenges. Most people are aware of feelings of dissatisfaction, but the reasons are unclear. They know that they want/need to change, but it can easily overwhelm. The first obstacle to overcome is clearly identifying what it is we wish to change. This usually requires significant time and energy dedicated to the uncomfortable task of self-examination. No, I’m not talking about posing in the mirror at the gym! I’m talking about doing a brutally honest review of the things in your world that you know are dragging you down. They may be situations, activities, people, or any number of familiar things you surround yourself with. This may be difficult because of mixed feelings.  There may be a “love/hate” relationship with these “change-items”. We’ll get into that in just a moment. Right now, it’s important that you simply identify what they are, and write them down (I know, more writing…!) Dedicate some quality time to this. Regard it as an investment in yourself. You’re worth it…!

keeping it going

Some are major, but most are minor enough that they escape our attention. Individually, they may have little effect. Taken cumulatively, they may have a significant impact on our daily existence. Make a note of how you brush your teeth. Do you start in the front, the back, or the sides? Do you start on the right or the left? Perhaps you notice how you put on your socks & shoes. Do you put on both socks, and then shoes? Do you put on one sock and one shoe? When you cross your arms, is the right over the left, or left over right? These are very simple examples of habits, but we are the product of hundreds of them. The point is: can you change these habits? Yes, you can. BUT (and you just knew there was a catch…!) you need to be aware of yourself doing them. You need to catch yourself and consciously change your behavior. While it is possible to change bad habits, it will initially take vigilance and effort until the old habit is gone, and the new habit takes hold…

Another one of the basics of “Human 101” is that we are all creatures of habit. We do thing repeatedly, and we do them one way. Often, we are unaware of these habits unless they no longer serve our needs.

Now that you have identified several things that need your attention, try to take the next step. Rank them in order of importance. This is a critical step as we discuss how to “keep it going”…

When you have clearly written down your ranked items for change, you are ready for the next step. For each of your items, clearly identify the reasons to want/need changing. You may have several reasons for each item. Some may be thoughts. Some may be feelings. The important thing is to identify them and write them down for future reference. We will come back to review these lists regularly. The lists will change over time, so it’s important to keep them up to date. Because they are written, we don’t need to recall from memory. You have it right in front of you, anytime you wish…

I just mentioned that the lists will change over time. It should make perfect sense, because we change over time. If you want to be successful with your changes, you should keep pace with the reasons behind them. The changes may be dramatic, or they may be subtle. It’s said that the reasons that prompted you to change, are not the same as the things that keep you changing. Beyond that, the thing that “bring you” to change and the things that “keep you” changing, are not the same as the things that, ultimately, get you through. Many of the reasons may be the same, but they may have gained or lost importance. What was, initially, THE most important reason is now number 4 or 5. Yet a reason previously identified as minor may, now, be the focus of your attention. Things change. We change. Write it down so that you can keep track…

It should be noted that initiating, or getting started, is straightforward and simple. You just do it. Notice that I didn’t say it was easy! You only need to do something once to credit yourself with having “started”. You overcame all the resistance, all the objections, and all the excuses. You resisted all of the pressures from outside (friends, family, job, social obligations, etc.). You also managed to overcome your own internal struggles (fear, anxiety, laziness, ambivalence, etc.). The very next day, however, you are called upon to “do it again”. Remember all of those obstacles, both internal and external? Well, here they are again, back in force. All of them conspiring to derail your best-laid plans. You are probably fatigued from your last encounter (yesterday), and you must now wrestle them all over again. Get back into the ring. You need to be prepared to face them all again, and again. If you have taken the proper steps outlined in these articles, you have the tools to help you with your wrestling match!

Basic psychology suggests that people will only change when the reasons to change outweigh the reasons not to.  This seems to make sense. But, many people fail because they do not properly track their progress. By writing the items and the reasons consistently and accurately, you will arm yourself for when the wrestling gets tough. Remember the reasons you used to overcome the objections yesterday? You wrote them down, you referred back to them, and used them today. If successful, you can refer to them tomorrow, next week, or next month…

I am often reminded of a line from the movie; “The Untouchables”.  Several times throughout the movie, Sean Connery said, “What are you prepared to do?” I ask this of my clients/patients all the time. While they claim to want to change, they are often reluctant to do what is necessary to make it happen. “What are you prepared to do?” refers to your willingness to experience life outside of your “comfort zone”. It asks about your willingness to be “inconvenienced”. It speaks to the number of obstacles you are willing to overcome. It also the “cost” and “price” you are willing to give for the “value” and “worth” you want as the pay off. Ultimately, with the amount of time & energy you spend on yourself today, do you really expect any more from your investment? Pay attention and track your progress. We don’t want to have the very same conversation next January first…!