Here it comes… I know, it’s weird to even think about New Year’s when there’s so much holidaying to do before then, but it’s less than a month away. It’s resolution time people. Are you ready?
So many folks face January 1 with a very clear notion of some way that they have failed in the past year. The solution is a resolution. (If you’re a language nerd like me that sentence can be entertaining for quite some time.) THIS year I am not going to suck in that same way. I am not going to smoke. I am not going to overeat. I am going to go to the gym. I am going to be more productive. I’m not going to yell at my kids. I am going to stop barking back at my neighbor’s dog (anyone? just me?).
Personally, not one of the changes I have made in my life has came from a resolution. None of them. Not one bit. The whole theory behind most resolutions as the answer to a problem is based solely on action. I just need to act differently and everything will be different. Well, yes, and no. The idea behind action-based change misses out on a critical feature of the human brain. The thing behind your action is your thoughts and feelings. Example: my action is that I overeat at dinner. The thought behind my action: 1) our family dinners are too short and 2) I’m gonna miss out if I don’t get everything I can right now. The feelings that follow are empty and focused on getting it all in. So with an action-based solution I make a resolution that I’m not going to overeat at dinner any more. That’s it. Heck, I’ll even put a sticker on my calendar for every day that I don’t overeat at dinner. Woot. That will work great. Really, it might, for a while. Any of you who have attempted life change by resolution can probably put a prediction on how long that is going to last. Most employees at the gym will tell you 90 days is about the outside limit on that score.
Changing your action without changing the thought behind the action is like brushing your teeth while you eat Oreos. You’re busy, and doing the right thing, but the results won’t last but a hot double-stuffed minute. The long lasting change is going to come from changing the thoughts behind those actions, truly investigating them, seeing if the action you’re taking matches up with the thoughts you’re having. Let me use my previously revealed example to explain further.
I often overeat at dinnertime. I want dinnertime to last a long time and I have some weird scarcity crud from childhood that makes me think I’m going to miss out on stuff if I don’t get what I can now. So I look first at the desire to have dinner be longer (i.e. more meaningful as family time). Is my eating longer going to do that? No, the action doesn’t match. Frankly, my kids don’t give a crap how much I eat or how long it takes me. It won’t slow them down and YES I could force them to stay while I finish, but it won’t be fun and I don’t want that food anyway. So what would be a better action? Finding a way to make dinner different a couple of days a week to extend our time together OR ensure we’re having quality time together at other times so dinner isn’t the focus. Both better actions that really get at the desire – the thoughts and feelings behind my dinner shoveling.
How about that other thought – the one about needing to get it all in so I don’t miss out? Is it actually true? No, no it’s not. It’s a remnant, spoiled leftovers, a sweater that doesn’t fit but still lives in the closet. I will not miss out on food, affection, or family time if I stop eating so much at dinner. In fact, if I want more later, I (as a grown adult) can get myself some MORE. See where I’m going here? These thoughts that were motivating the behavior I’m not keen on were, in one case, poorly matched with the behavior and in the other, simply untrue, invalid thinking. I can actively catch those thoughts, and work on them to change my behavior at the source.
What’s that behavior you’re looking to change? What action are you tempted to take? What thoughts are driving the way you’re doing things now? Not sure? The first step is to pay close attention. Notice when it happens. Tune in. Notice why it happens. You might be surprised by what’s going on in there.
How did I sort out those thoughts? I had an excellent coach who asked excellent questions. Voila. If you have real changes you want to make, a permanent thought revolution instead of a temporary action resolution as we move into the new year, let me know. I can help.