Raise your hand if you’re still keeping your New Year’s resolution! If you’re sheepishly wishing that you could honestly raise your hand, you’re in good company. I’ve found that changing a habit I’ve decided doesn’t serve me well seems easy on the surface, but by now I’ve figured out it’s damned tough. With the best intentions, we resolutely announce we’ve chosen to (stop smoking, exercise more, eat less, eat better, be nicer to our spouse or boss, name your poison), and January 1, we dive in. But staying on track gets progressively more difficult. Here’s why and what you can do about it.
That habit I want to change? That dysfunctional behavior? That tic? It is embedded in my Knower/Judger. It has been with me since I made a decision that this particular habit/behavior worked well for me. Those decisions are usually made in our younger days…our much younger days…like around age four, five, or six.
At that age, we’re little people among big people. We decide (because we get the message from those big people) to clean our plates. We decide (because when we try to act independently, it doesn’t serve the big people all that well, and they frown upon it) that we’re not supposed to try new things. Instead, we decide to be afraid of trying new things.
So here I am 60 years later (less for most of you, I presume), and my New Year’s resolution is to eat less and take more chances.
Remember that my K/J has rules that oppose those goals. Clean your plate and don’t take chances are beliefs that are embedded in me.
That K/J acts just like the real big people that were in my life when I made those decisions. What were the chances I could look Mom in the eye and tell her I didn’t want to clean my plate? They are the same today. What are the chances I could tell Dad or my first grade teacher that I would rather play the violin than the plastic flutophone the school district put in my hands?
So when January 1 comes around and I announce my intentions to the world, I’ve got an imaginary army of big people ready to make me do otherwise. I feel uncomfortable because that’s how I felt when I tried to do things way back then, even though those people are no longer in my life. And I don’t like to feel uncomfortable.
So, just as if my parents, teachers, scout leaders, ministers, etc. were standing over me right now, I’ll eventually do what makes me feel comfortable. My resolutions are toast. Plate clean! Back to my cubicle, with dreams of owning my own business put on hold until next January 1.
What to do about this? How can I hedge the outcome toward achieving what I told myself I wanted in late December?
I can help myself by accessing my Learner/Researcher. In that persona, I harbor the ability to see pure, unfiltered data (I’m fat. I’m not getting ahead with this job.). And I can draw some conclusions (My life will be shortened. I will remain unhappy and unfulfilled.).
In the L/R, I also have the freedom to want. To dream. To explore.
Picture the devil (K/J) on one shoulder and the angel (L/R) on the other (not that the K/J is always a villain).
My challenge is that by mid-January, the only character I’m responding to is the devil! That K/J-embedded habit is allowed to grow back because I’m not accessing the part of me that wants to make the change and knows why.
It’s my experience that any time I attempt to make some behavioral change, I end up in the K/J vs. L/R exchange. And sometimes the K/J still wins. But as long as I can keep the L/R’s want alive, I can accept the discomfort and stay out of the habit. It’s when I lose sight of that want and my understanding of why that I slip back into my comfort zone.
What does it take for me to keep the L/R dream alive? Recognizing when I’m slipping back. I know when that’s happening because there’s a certain warm, fuzzy comfort to it. I know this sounds counterintuitive.
“When you’re getting comfortable, you’re slipping?” you ask. Yes. You’ve heard the metaphors:
- · Can’t get to second base with your foot still on first.
- · Keep doing what you’ve been doing and you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
There are many others.
So the magic for keeping that January 1 resolution is wanting the result more than you want to feel comfortable, and knowing why you want it.
Now, why don’t you forgive yourself for not raising your hand at the beginning of this article and go resurrect that resolution.