How do You Convince Yourself to Change?
The strong aroma of coffee would begin to perk me up before I even had my first sip of espresso. I worked as Director of Financial Aid while at completing my graduate work at TIU, and everyday at 3 pm, gracious coworkers would bring us a cup of cuban espresso. The experience became such an ingrained routine that the first memory that comes to mind when I think of my time at the University is the rich taste of the coffee. In the midst of sluggish afternoons, my coworkers and I would being to anticipate the arrival of the espresso.
Around 2:30 pm, those in the office would already begin to experience “the espresso joy,” knowing that we only had to wait a little longer until we received the caffeinated comfort that we had become accustomed to.
This experience of anticipation, of feeling the joy that something brings before we even receive it, is something studied by researchers when looking at the role of habit and routine. When you want to change, when you know what you want to change and when you have made a decision to change, you need to create habits and routines that allow the change to stick.
In this second blog in our resolutions series, we will explore the second component of change: making the decision to change.
Deciding to Change
Self-awareness is like an internal mirror - it’s reflection reveals patterns that create either chaos or order in your life. When you have a problem such as explosive anger, binge eating, or impulsive shopping, you need to identify the circumstances and events that precipitate the problem that you want to correct. Once you reflect on what motivates your actions, you need to feel a sense of urgency and conviction to spur you on to make the needed changes.
Self-awareness without conviction can lead to a dangerous mindset consisting of complacency, self-pity, and even shame. And these forces can lead to a feeling of helplessness - an enemy that prevents change from happening. So, how can you persuade yourself to change?
Write down a list of reasons why you should change
Write down the pros and cons of changing. For example, what would be the benefit of not exploding in anger around your family and co-workers? Make sure that your reasons are personal.
What will happen if you don’t change?
What is the worst thing that can happen if you continue living the way you are today? What do you want to be like 5, 10, 15 years from now? Frame a picture in your mind of the worst and best version of yourself.
Remember a time you were successful
Think about a previous effort you made to reach a goal, to do something different and think about how it felt to succeed. Dream about what your life would look like if you were able to forgive your spouse, if you managed your anger better, if you handled your impulses better.
Go ahead and list all of your excuses
Write down all of the reasons why you have not changed already, or why previous attempts to change have failed. Highlight each excuse and be honest with yourself. What do you gain by not changing? What do you lose?
Find a hero
Is there a figure who shared a similar struggle and succeeded in achieving their goals? Watch a movie or read a book about such a person to gain inspiration and encouragement.
Choose one thing
When many faults come to the surface, it is easy to come up with a list of 100 things to change. Choose one thing that you can wrap your energy around. Break this one thing down into simple micro-moments. For example, decide to greet your spouse with a kiss and hug everyday after work, instead of rattling off a list of complaints. This simple micro-moment will ultimately lead to a stronger relationship. A broad relationship goal such as “be happier in my marriage” may be frustrating because of the many factors that come into play. Instead, choose one thing to do and hone in on the micro-moments. Eventually, all of the micro-moments will add up and make a significant difference.
Make a commitment
Write down, “I am going to…” Share your decision with someone you trust. When you share a commitment you have made, you are more likely to follow-through on your decision. You are more likely to stay true to your commitment if you have a friend or family member holding you accountable.
Define the Goal
Now that you have decided to change, the work begins. You should define goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timed). For example, “I will share one reason a day I am grateful to my spouse,” Or “I will eat healthy snacks at work and will stock my lunch bag with healthy options so that I follow through on my goal.” Specifically identify what you want to do differently - the less vague your goal is, the more attainable it will be.
Hold yourself accountable to those goals. You can start by sharing them with us.