“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare.
It is because we do not dare they are difficult.”
Who doesn’t LOVE video montages!? Especially the 80’s style, 3-5 minute clip where Europe’s The Final Countdown is blaring in the background and the protagonist goes from skinny nerd to ripped superhero by overcoming every single insecurity and ingrained habit they have developed over their entire lifetime. Pure gold.
They are, without a doubt, my favorite part of any movie. I love them because they are inspiring, short, and utterly absurd. Unfortunately, though a work of cinematic genius, they don’t ever give you a true sense of what it takes to make change in your life.
So take a minute and get pumped up with your own version of Danger Zone or Last Friday Night, and let’s explore how we actually move forward and start driving our own bus.
Change is change is change
Overcoming your first large obstacle is the most difficult and time consuming, it’s a learned skill. The same qualities that allow you to change bad eating habits or become fit or take control of your finances are the same. It may take 5 or 10 years of struggling with the first one and 3-6 months to tackle the second in a meaningful way. The stages are the same and you trust in them once you’ve seen real results from your first “demon”.
Even more importantly, once you’ve been through a major change you believe in yourself being able to navigate the next change. You don’t expect quick fixes and you know that the majority of change has to come from within first before you can find external support to help you achieve your goal.
As obvious as it sounds, step 1 is being aware that you have a problem that you want to face. Awareness involves you believing that it is your problem to fix, not someone else’s. If you feel like it’s your partners fault that you’re not happy, your jobs fault that you’re not fit, and your kids fault that you are poor, you’re not going anywhere for awhile.
Acceptance has a large component of forgiveness. Cultivate a no shame, no blame attitude. This applies to yourself as well as to those around you. Don’t blame your parents if they are struggling with the same issue you have, they did the best with what they had. Accept your situation and acknowledge that this is where you are starting.
Desire is what drives you. Connect to your why. Why do you want to change? If you’re successful, what will the future you have that you don’t? Connecting to a meaningful value is a lot more powerful than connecting to instant gratification. This is the difference between exercising for long term quality of life and wanting looking good in a bathing suit next summer. I don’t know a single person who managed to sculpt their body to spite an ex… just saying.
Commit to doing something about your problem. Real commitment always comes in the form of “right now”. Not “next month” or “after that vacation” or “when I feel more rested” or “New Years”. These are just excuses for pretty much telling ourselves that we are committing while not actually doing anything.
Action is often mistaken as the starting point of change but is really a byproduct of the several previous internal processes above. Action is the iceberg just above waterline where you start to see the results of awareness, acceptance, desire, and commitment. Action can take many forms, depending on the specific change you are trying to make. It could be as simple as reaching out to those around you that exhibit the behaviours you want, signing up for a course, or joining a club.
Create accountability with a small group of like minded people or a coach who will meet with you regularly. These individuals are your external interface to the problem or change you are overcoming, they should be at least a few steps ahead of you and be able to mentor you through the transition. They have travelled the path you are about to take and provide an objective perspective (i.e. they call out your bullshit).
Perseverance is about not stopping. There comes a point where our motivation dips and we’re not as excited to be grinding day in and day out. Unfortunately, this happens right before we see the culmination of our efforts building on each other. Continue believing small actions can make a difference in the long run. Focus on fundamental changes first. Habits take anywhere from 30-90 days to become auto-pilot.
Immerse yourself by reading, watching, or starting discussions about the change you want to adopt. Think about how it applies to your life and those around you. Observe healthy and unhealthy behaviours. Start taking the knowledge that you are acquiring and connect it to other areas of your life. What habits do those around you who have what you want look like? What habits do those around you that don’t have what you want look like
Make mistakes. What did you learn? What did it teach you about your habits? How will you approach the next similar situation? Failure is the BEST mechanism to learn that we have. Being able to get back up after we have fallen down is a skill and it’s what separates success from failure, NOT the ability to avoid mistakes.
Don’t think you’re an expert? Think again. Most everyone feels like an imposter at first but your situation may be inspiring to those around you. Don’t become too evangelical, but don’t dismiss what you have to offer. Remember, you just went through the whole program and any learnings you have are fresh and insightful. Grab someone’s hand if they reach out to you. Become someone’s sentinel, it will reinforce what you just learned.
If you’ve struggled with change in the past, I challenge you to review the list and pinpoint exactly where you fell down. My guess is that things go sideways early on. Although life is not a montage, it can look that way from the outside and especially in hindsight.