"Quit smoking? Yeah, I can quit smoking, I've done it ten or fifteen times already!"
"I've tried every diet known to man. The first week or two, I do great, then I don't know what happens. I guess they just don't work."
"I've grown accustomed to this large body cushioning me."
"If I give up zoning out on drugs, how can I face the world?"
"If I don't get drunk, I won't have any fun."
Did you ever wonder why a baby cries when their diaper is changed? You would think they'd be happy to get rid of their wet messes. Like us, the baby doesn't know that the change will ultimately be "good." The transition (change) from the warm, moist, comfortable mess on their bottom to exposure to cold air, wet clothe, rubbings, ointments, etc. is miserable! (You remember, don't you?) Once through the transition from the comfortable, warm mess to a clean dry diaper, they probably wonder what all the fuss was about.
There is something safe, warm, and comfortable about the wet messes we humans wallow in. Being exposed to a symbolic diaper change can be very upsetting. As much as one may abhor their own behavior, changing to a new one can be more terrifying. At least the old behavior is familiar, “safe;” you know what to do. With the "new" behavior, you’d have to learn all over again.
Why do people change? The law changes and people are forced to change. Bussing for the purpose of integration, for example, forced change; the pros and cons of which are still being debated. A ban on smoking in public places, while very effective, angers smokers and some bar-owners.
Fear is a great motivator. Something "bad" will happen if they don't change. Or someone will leave. Or they will die. Fear can keep a person stuck in the same old pattern – or move them through great changes in the blink f an eye. Fear provides a powerful urgency to change.
The will to change is the key to change. As much as human beings believe they can force change upon another person – that their desire to change another will cause them to change - it doesn’t happen; they do not change. Until a person chooses to change, they won't. So think twice (thrice?) before trying to change the behavior of your partner, lover, husband, wife. Unless a person wants to change, change will not occur.
Once you decide to change, there are some keys to success. It is helpful to know why you want to change. If the reason is for someone else, don’t bother to even start – your “change” is failure in the making. The "I'll change because my lover will stay and then I'll be happy” lasts until the first big challenge ... and then the old familiar behaviors take over.
The motivation to change could be suggested by another and it must come from inside of you. In order for change to work, it has to be for you: "I want to quit smoking so I can breathe, live longer, and feel good." “I want to lose weight because I’ll feel better and my knees might not hurt so much.” “I want to get up 20 minutes early to meditate because it calms me and prepares me for my stress-filled day.” “I want to get up and walk every morning because it energizes me and strengthens my heart.” Write down the reason you want to change, put it in places, obvious places, where you can see it, often – on the bathroom mirror, above the commode, the refrigerator, pantry door. By making a commitment to yourself, you make a commitment to your willingness to change. When you waiver, the reminder is there: “Oh, yeah, this for me.”
Set the intention for the change you want to make. Intention is about 90% of the success of change. “I will stop eating sugar now.” State this intention daily and celebrate each day that you find yourself at the end of the day in which you haven’t eaten any sugar. Be clear about your intention. “I will not over eat at any meal. I intend to stop eating before I am full.” “I will workout at the gym for one hour every other day.” Saying I will lose weight gives you little direction. Be clear about your intention.
Stay in the present, taking one day at a time. In fact be in the present moment, taking one moment at a time … at the meal you are eating. Choosing not to eat a piece of cake. Walking. Paying attention to the gift of the food, of each bite. Take joy in respecting your body by not smoking … and instead breathing clean, fresh air. You are not making sacrifices; you are honoring your agreement with yourself.
Keep daily, or at least weekly progress notes. Less than that and you may forget the wonderful accomplishments you make. Keep it simple to prevent the notes from becoming more cumbersome than the actual change! In your notebook write down what and how you are doing, it reminds you that change is occurring. Observe the more subtle differences, i.e., when I don’t overeat, how do I feel, how is my digestion, my energy, my attitude towards people?
For some people, joining a group can be very supportive. If you're trying to lose weight, contact your local clinic or hospital for weight loss or nutrition classes. In order to lose weight that stays “lost,” involves completely changing eating habits and foods. Pill popping is a temporary fix – in the long run, no change has occurred. If you want to quit smoking, smoking cessation groups, classes, and clinics abound. If you need help sticking with an exercise program, you might join a health club, aerobics or dance classes. Bring in all the resources you need for your success.
Ask for guidance, support, and assistance when you need it – it can make the journey easier. By embracing what scares us, we learn, become stronger, and heal. Change is easier if you feel love and support. And it becomes easier the more you do it. In fact, it can actually be fun. And it is a risk. Some of your friends may not like the "new you."
Change isn’t just about the end result; it’s about the journey. (Audible groans – you’ve heard this before.) Change allows you to learn how you think, how disciplined you are, your strengths, and other parts that you want to let go of. The process helps you to know yourself better … to learn to love and appreciate yourself more. View it as a journey, a learning process. Stepping stones to a happier, healthier you.
Change is only partly about the reward at the end of your journey. Be in the present moment to experience the joy of releasing what no longer fits and welcoming the new. As you eat, actually taste the food, appreciate the energy and time that went into creating the meal. As you walk, notice how your muscles feel, how stepping forward on your right foot affects your left. Or notice the sky, the clouds, trees, houses, children playing. As you meditate notice your breathing, release the urge to notice the discomforts and allow yourself to notice what feels good.
Single, married, in a relationship, not in a relationship, just looking, just exploring … it doesn’t matter. No one else can make us happy. We, you and I, are responsible for our own joy, our own happiness. Try as we do to blame someone else for our misery – parents, boss, partner … you are ultimately and completely responsible for you.
Only you can decide what is best for you. Ultimately, you have to live with and be happy with you. May your journey be a joyous one. May you find yourself along the way. Peace.