You already know what to do to increase your happiness. Now get unstuck and do it!
You know a zillion things you could do to feel better, to increase your happiness and to get more of what you want, and yet you don’t do them.
You want to lose weight but you don’t change what you’re eating. You want to be creative, but you zombie out in front of a computer screen instead. You want a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with your partner, but you avoid talking about what you’re feeling.
You, and most of us.
Why? Here are three of the top reasons I consistently uncover with my clients:
- Habit. What a blessing and a curse habit is; a well worn road in the brain that requires little attention or effort to execute a behavior. Habits of action and habits of thinking make much of our day automatic and efficient, until you want to make a change. Change requires intention, effort and time.
- Fear. You may not think you’re fearful — why would you be scared of doing something that’s good for you, that you know will benefit you? — but dig a little deeper and you’ll usually come across a voice in your head that whispers (or screams), “Don’t rock the boat! You might make things worse!” This is the voice of inertia, of status quo, of keeping you safe by keeping you the same.
- Slowing Down Is Like Dying. Yes, to make a sustainable change you have to slow down in order to create new neural pathways, which in time become new habits. And slowing down in our stressed-out, hyper-drive lives is like approaching death.How so? When we slow down, our feelings, our thoughts and our ailments catch up with us and we’re confronted with the undone and unexamined parts of our lives that we would rather ignore. How many times have you or a co-worker gotten sick on your vacation? Great example of the physical catching up once the adrenals that keep you going are given a break. Have you tried meditating but found yourself uncomfortable with your mind chatter or uncomfortable feelings? Rather not look back? Exactly.
On to the good news. Here are three keys to getting into action and making meaningful changes in your life.
1. Know Your Why
To overcome habit, fear and momentum, you need a powerful ally: meaning. Research shows that meaning is a key component of happiness and that being happy is essential to reaching our goals.
So investigate and articulate your “why.”
Wanting to lose weight to be “skinny” or a size “X” is not meaningful and emotionally compelling, but wanting to lose weight to have energy to play with your grandkids is.
Answer these questions to clarify the unique and personal reasons that you want to change:
- What will you be able to do that you can’t do now?
- Why does it matter to you?
- What will you feel when you’ve accomplished your goal?
Write down your meaning statement and put it in the places that you’ll need to be reminded when habit may kick in. Stick on the TV screen if your intention is to create instead of veg out. Stick it on the fridge if your goal is to change your eating habits.
2. Get Committed and Get Specific.
Are you committed to the change you want? If not, then let yourself off the hook. The next time the thought, “I should be…” passes through your mind, simply respond, “Oh yeah, I’m not committed to that. I can stop beating myself up about it because it’s not important to me.”
What exactly do you want and by when? Imagine that your brain is like a computer running programs — if the programs are sloppy, the performance is sloppy, as memory and energy are tied up trying to generate unclear outcomes.
Go from “I’d like to be painting after work” to “I’m committed to creating 3 new paintings by the end of the year.”
Draw an imaginary commitment line on the floor. The side you’re on is the uncommitted side. As you step over the line, state your commitment out loud. Own it.
Write down your commitment and re-read it at the same time every day, preferably in the morning. This primes your mind to make it happen.
3. Get Support.
We’re told we “should” be able to make all the changes we want on our own. We’re sold on independence and autonomy. We imagine that others have done it on their own. Truth is that all the successful people out there got help, from friends, family, co-workers, religious communities, mentors or coaches.
We’re social creatures and we’re each like fish in our own water: Ask a fish how the water is and he’ll reply, “What’s water?” We simply can’t see ourselves from the outside. We’re blind to ourselves in many ways and need each other as mirrors, for empathy and as cheerleaders.
As we’re confronted by those emotions we’ve been trying to outrun, we need a safe person or community where we can reveal our inner experiences, be received and move through them.
Support comes in many forms, be it a buddy, a group or a coach. If you’re serious about change, get serious about getting consistent support.
- Grab your paper and pen and write down one thing you’re committed to changing before this year ends.
- Write down why it matters to you specifically.
- Imagine it’s December 31st and you have accomplished your goal — write down how you feel.
- Lastly, write down who you are going to enroll for support.
- Now smile.
This guest article originally appeared on YourTango.com: You Already Know What Makes You Happy, So Go Do It Already.