The Resistance Band of Change
The greater the change you are trying to make, the greater the resistance will be. The amount of resistance is not dependent on whether the change is good or bad. Like a resistance band for exercise, the further you stretch it, the harder to gets.
Our existence is centered around the concept of homeostasis. The minute you make a change, your body and mind is fighting to go back "home" - back to normal. This is why so many people make their home firmly on the first plateau they encounter. As a result, so much of our lives are stuck in mediocrity.
*paraphrased from a podcast lecture called "The Path to Mastery Part 2".
Let's start with an area of your life where you are really good at staying in the discomfort of change. For me, that's my career. I can put myself in challenging situations and stick it out until I've grown comfortable and then move into the next discomfort. I relish the never-ending process of mastery. I can look back and see how far I've come, but then look out and see how the road ever ends in front of me. What is that area for you? Where do you thrive in the discomfort of growth? It could be a sport, hobby, a relationship, etc.
Now think of something you've been battling for a long time. Something where you feel like you can't make progress or you're stuck in the place where things are just "okay". Maybe a health factor, level of fitness, financial status, a relationship, or everyday routine rut.
On the bright side, you're able to maintain a certain level, but what you're actually experiencing is the constant, dull pull of homeostasis. In my own life, what it feels like is getting my head above water briefly to see change and feel great about myself. Then just as quickly, I allow myself to move out of the discomfort of change, back to what was.
The question that remains is how do you break through? How you you fight your way to the new homeostasis?
The podcast offered these five steps, but for our purposes, we'll talk about the first three:
Instruction - Practice - Surrender
What does that mean? How does that apply to us?
- Instruction: Hire a coach, trainer, therapist, instructor, nutritionist, etc.
- Find someone who you trust and respect to show you the path and keep you on it. I've started to do this a lot more lately with sports (ski lessons, kiteboarding instruction, and tennis class), with my health (seeing a Naturopathic doctor), and now with my fitness (a more custom and coached fitness program). In the past, I just refused to admit that I need coaching within my own realm of expertise. In these sports, I knew very little about the tactical details of how to perform so it was easy to seek help. In health and fitness, I know a lot but it's holding me back from actually committing to any of it. It's the inability to truly assess myself, coupled with letting myself off the hook. Even coaches need coaches, and I would argue that they need them just as much or more than anyone else.
- Practice: Start with a goal of stringing together 3 - 6 months of consistent commitment to the process.
- One month isn't enough because when the calendar turns over, you let go of the reigns.
- The further along learning curve of what you're trying to change, the slower and more incremental progress will be. You're probably just going to have to slog it out. Practice, then practice, then when it gets really boring, practice a little more. Most of us quit right before we see the change (including me).
- Surrender: Banish your ego.
- Buy into the process. Allow yourself to be taught and to not be afraid to stand up for the things you need to do. For me, that might mean eating or not eating certain foods, making sure I sleep at certain times, and paying for coaching.
One good thing about health and fitness is that for the majority of people, there's a new health home where we're 100% happy to stay. For example, if you are a runner, you can train and race consistently without getting injured and are happy with your pace. Or maybe you lost weight and feel really great in your skin. It's fairly "easy" to maintain the status quo once you've reach it, as long as you don't revert to old habits.
This is where we start to slide into contentment. The problem is when we confuse contentment with complacency.
Here's the difference:
- Complacency - accepting less than your best because change is too hard or scary
- Contentment - acknowledgement and gratitude for where you are, knowing that it is the best for you at this moment.
Stop choosing what you want now instead of what you want most.
Where do you feel like you're excelling in the process and pain of growth? Acknowledge and be grateful for the path that you're on.
What area of your life do you keep letting the resistance pull you back? Admit it to yourself and then find someone who can help you change it.