WHAT I LEARNED FROM FAILURE. (AND HOW TO ACTUALLY MAKE POSITIVE CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE.)
For years I tried setting big goals to make positive changes in my life and almost always failed. The few times I was initially successful at making a positive change, it didn’t last.
Like most people who try to change and fail, I assumed that I was the problem. I thought I must not have enough willpower.
At some point I found myself thinking about a change I wanted to make and at the same time hearing the voice in my head say something to the effect of, “yeah, that’s not going to happen.”
That was the point I realized I HAD to shift my strategy.
And I discovered how focusing on my habits could help me make the changes I wanted in my life happen and stick.
The first thing I learned was that there are 4 things that most of us do wrong when trying to affect positive change in our lives (Do any of these sound familiar to you?)
MISTAKE #1: No planning.
Here’s what would typically happen, I’d be lying in bed late at night feeling bad about something (or everything). I’d decided then and there that starting tomorrow I’d do things differently.
And then I’d wing it from there. I assumed I would figure out the details of making this change as I went along. But here’s the truth: it doesn’t work that way because our brains don’t work that way. It’s overwhelming and confusing and our brains don’t like that at all.
MISTAKE #2: Trying to change everything all at once.
Often the desire for a positive change comes from a place of desperation and there were many nights when I couldn’t sleep because my mind was fixated on all the things that were wrong with me and my life. So naturally, I’d want to change everything all at once.
I’d tell myself that tomorrow was the first day of finally eating a perfect diet, reading all the books I’d been collecting, spending more time with friends and family, and practicing yoga for an hour a day. Can you relate to this one? Yeah, it doesn’t work.
MISTAKE #3: Giving up.
Despite not planning and trying to change everything all at once, pain can be a strong motivator and once, I made it a whole week doing all the things I wanted to do differently in my life. But during that second week, I ran out of steam and couldn’t keep up.
And as soon as I got frustrated with myself, I stopped trying. I had the mindset that if I can’t be 100% perfect, it wasn’t enough and not worth the effort. I’m not sure where this all or nothing thinking came from, but very few people change their lives completely overnight.
MISTAKE #4: Negative thinking.
My old way of trying to make positive changes in my life was predictably doomed to fail. I’d make an earnest promise to myself, exert a huge amount of effort for a few days, and throw in the towel as soon as my motivation waned or my “new life” wasn’t ideal.
And so naturally, I’d get really down on myself. It‘s human nature to blame and chastise ourselves when we feel we are failing. And chronic failure sets us up for not really believing it’s possible from the start. The thing is, negative thinking won’t get us very far.
So here’s what I’ve learned to do (and now teach) instead, this is what works and has absolutely changed my life for the better in many ways:
Instead of not planning, WHAT DOES WORK: Specific plan of action.
Research shows that specific plans are easier to achieve and that habit changes go from mysterious to methodical, one doable step at a time.
Instead of trying to change everything at once. WHAT DOES WORK: Focus on one habit at a time.
There’s only so much energy to devote to change. Focusing on a single behavior and giving it time to really become a habit is what works long term.
Instead of giving up, WHAT DOES WORK: Patience and persistence.
It takes a lot of repetition to create a new habit and it’s important not to let the little, inevitable setbacks along the way turn into quitting time.
Instead of negative thinking, WHAT DOES WORK: Positive motivation.
True, long-lasting change is most possible when it’s rooted in positive thinking, which also paves the way for easier habit-building in the future.
So if you want to make a positive change in your life:
- Get clear on your motivation and use it as positive encouragement.
- Create a specific and focused plan of concise action to make one small change.
- Know it will take time to make changes and the hurdles you’ll encounter are opportunities to strengthen your resolve.
If (like me) you’ve tried making positive changes in your life in the past and failed, know it’s not your fault! And also know there’s a scientifically-proven and simple step-by-step process to making changes that last, with ease.
And check out how I can guide and support you in learning and implementing it through my online program Shift Happens.
NOW YOU TELL ME, WHICH OF THESE MISTAKES HAVE YOU MADE? WHAT POSITIVE CHANGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO MAKE IN YOUR LIFE? WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST OBSTACLE FOR MAKING IT HAPPEN? LET ME KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW.
HI, I’M STEPHANNIE.
I’m a Certified Yoga Therapist on a mission to make yogic wisdom, movements and breathing practices simple so that you can make them part of your routine and be less stressed, more confident, and experience more cam every single day.
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