Why do people make changes? What makes people change something drastically in their lives? What prevents people from making changes they know they should make? Why do we talk so much about change anyway? Change is tough stuff. It doesn’t matter how you approach it or what you’ve changed in the past – making a new change is always a challenge. So much to consider, and it’s never as simple as “just do it.” Even when you get to the point of “just do it,” there’s usually been a good chunk of time when the change was brewing – you were thinking, planning, backing out, stopping, starting, whatever – before you finally pulled up the big girl panties and went for it.
Before someone makes a change there’s always a point of discontent (to put it mildly) and it usually takes a “last straw” kind of moment before you really make it happen. I’ve talked about my list of reasons for going paleo, but what’s the link between all of those seemingly disjointed reasons? Yes, I am a generally health conscious person, I had lifelong GI issues that were hurting my running, I was injured, I was addicted to diet coke and cereal and sweets, I was signed up to run the Boston Marathon, I had just had a birthday, I had an internet connection. I like sausage. I can cook. Sure those are all great reasons to try out paleo. So did they all just come together in one “aha!” moment and make me clean out the cereal in my pantry and start a new life with new food? Yes and no.
I had the knowledge. I had reasons. I was pretty desperate and pretty scared that I’d have to back out of Boston. But without this key factor, I wouldn’t have made the drastic change to my diet and lifestyle. So what the heck was it? It’s really nothing that special, it’s just that I knew I could do it. I was at a point where I was willing to try it out, fully, completely, give it a good shot because I knew it was something I had the ability to do (confidence) and I also knew that I had nothing to lose at that point. The fear of failure often drives people away from making the changes they know they need to. You might not even realize you’re afraid of failing and you might just make one excuse after another, believing each one for a while until you can’t rationalize it anymore, and then finding a new one to hold onto. Change wouldn’t be so difficult and scary if we could see ourselves in the future after we’ve taken the leap. We wouldn’t be so overwhelmed by the process if we had complete confidence in our ability to go through the steps to make it happen.
When I first studied psychology, as a shy and insecure college student, I was instantly attracted to the behavioral technique of “acting as if” because it meant that you could train your thoughts and behavior to overcome your feelings of fear. When you “act as if,” you can’t help but start to believe in your ability to make changes. To act even though you’re not feeling it. I use this principle in my running and in the rest of my life and continue to practice it when I’m feeling insecure, fearful, and down on myself. I believe that by the time we dive in a make a big change, like switching to a paleo lifestyle or beginning a new fitness program, we are making the choice to believe we can accomplish something. Yes, sometimes we feel like we’re at rock bottom and have no choice, but you always have the choice of giving up and letting things get even worse. If you want to make a real change, you have to know, somewhere inside you, that YOU CAN. Old story, but no doubt it speaks the truth.
What has helped you make big changes in your life?