Here’s what we’ve discovered.
Unless you stumble into wonder or suffering - an epiphany or complete desperation - but even then, that usually provides the initial shift and you still have process of unfolding change ahead of you.
We also realized that change will be resisted - either by the people and society around you or by your self.
Essentially, in your change, you will be a bit weird about it…and so there will be plenty of opportunities to avoid the change.
When that happens, you have a few options:
First, don’t change. Retreat. Go back. See the possibility and consider it too daunting and not worth the risk, time, and energy.
Second, embrace the process. Embrace the tiny steps.
Third, a technique that makes option one obsolete and will help catalyze option two.
So let me give you an example.
Every morning (when my Triune Brain isn't in the way), I wake up and do some sort of physical activity to get my heart rate up, basically shifting me out of sleep mode. Now, physical activity builds up lactic acid which is not conducive to recovery and can slow your functionality down during the day. Some people walk or jog after a workout to help get rid of this, but some research has been done on another option. It is also the option that furthers the “shift” I am going for in transitioning from asleep to awake. Then there is another benefit, it helps promote cold tolerance and strengthen your body’s ability to adapt to temperature…something we lose when we live at a constant 72 degrees thanks to climate control.
Sounds great right? Well, the problem is this activity is taking a cold, 55 degree shower. And the same thing happens every single time.
I don’t want to do it.
I will walk to the shower and immediately tell myself, “You don’t have to do this. You could just go and begin the next part of the day. It will even save time and allow you to get more done. What will skipping one day really do to you?” I will stand there and stare at the water thinking of every reason I don't want to step in. So why not just turn the water off and forget about it?
Well, I know that it will fail to do the three benefits I just mentioned and will actually lead to a less productive flow for the day. I know I want the benefits, but I also know I want to avoid the process. So I will stand there trying to do option one: Retreat.
After a lot of practice with this temptation to retreat, I’ve learned a couple of tricks to mitigate my tendency to justify not doing the hard thing.
First, I turn on the shower. Now I’ve started using water and, because I’m not a fan of wasting water, every second I let that run builds up guilt.
Second, I will have told someone, usually my wife, that I am going to do it in the morning. In the moment of retreat, I remind myself that I will potentially be asked about this and, if I don’t do it, there will be regret. So I build in some accountability.
Third, I get my leg wet. Now, I will have to at least dry off my leg, so I might as well go ahead and take the shower.
Essentially, in the face of the difficult process, in the moment of making a decision to take the next step, I’ve learned to make it easier to do the thing than to walk away.
If you make the change easier than not changing, you are more likely to embrace the process.
So when you have contemplated change and find yourself hesitant to take action, just trick yourself. Set it up so that it would be harder for you to do nothing than to take that step.
If you need to have a conversation with someone that you are avoiding, tell them you’d like to talk to them so that the next time you’re together, it would be more awkward to avoid the conversation than to have it.
If you are trying to use certain apps on your phone less, put them on the furthest screen away from your home screen and put them in one of those little boxes so that it would actually take more time to get to the app than to just put your phone down.
If you are trying to stop a habit, how can you make it really difficult to get that “thing” or put yourself in that situation?
If you are trying to get involved in something, tell someone leading it that you are committed or sign up or pay the entrance fee or make it so that you drive by that place in your commute so that, now, you might as well just do it.
Figure out what you want to change and then ask, “How can I make this easier than continuing to do nothing?”