Change is stressful, especially when it’s unexpected change. But even planned, positive change can put you on your toes!
People have a general tendency to fear the unknown. Oftentimes, we’d rather stick with what we know because it’s familiar and, well, let’s face it, the familiar is comfortable. When we look into a future of unknowns it tends to feel largely out of our control, and this lack of control is what tends to make us feel stressed. So, when we think about starting something new, we might hesitate, make excuses, or save the change for “one day when…”
How is it, then, that you can stop procrastinating and actually make change happen?
The secret lies in gaining a sense of control over change, and ultimately, choosing to own it. It may be easier said than done, but here are a few things you can do to embrace and own change in your life:
1| Forget about what you’re missing out on and focus, instead, on what you’ll gain. For example, if you’re trying to embark on healthier eating, one of the worst things you can do is think about the food that you won’t be eating. Instead, do some research and start a collection of recipes that you can eat and that will satisfy your cravings. Soon, you’ll be craving these new foods so much that you won’t even be thinking about the old ones.
2| Develop a passion for your new behaviour. You might feel some pressure to make a change that other people think you should make. If this is the case, then you probably don’t have a great chance of being successful. When you make a change, it’s got to have meaning. Maybe, for example, you’re feeling pressured to go to the gym. That’s all good and well, but have you stopped and asked yourself if you actually enjoy going to the gym? If someone told me that I had to practice a musical instrument to stay healthy, chances are I’d be very unhealthy! Some people don’t enjoy playing music, others don’t enjoy going to the gym. Be honest with yourself. Are you trying to change because you really want to or because you feel that you should? There may be other ways of achieving your goal in a way that would be more enjoyable. Sit down, think about what these things are and only act when you feel passionate about what it takes to get there.
3| Slow down! You’re probably already quite familiar with the expressions “break it up into small pieces,” and “one step at a time,” but when it comes to starting something new then, really, break it up into small pieces and take things one step at a time. Don’t plan on running a full marathon next week if you’ve never run a 5k. According to behavioural change psychologist Dr. James O. Prochaska, change happens in stages (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997) so ty to set small, incremental goals leading up to a bigger one. If you’d like to adopt a healthier diet, don’t plan on going vegan overnight. See if you can add one or two new foods to your meals every week.
4| Predict when and where you’ll practice. Have you ever heard the general rule of thumb that new habits are formed after 21 days? Ya? So have I, but forget it because it’s not necessarily true. In a 2009 study conducted by Lally and colleagues, it took an average of 66 days to form a new habit. For some individuals, it even took up to 254 days! Turns out, the most important predictor of forming new habits is repeated practice during the early stages of change (Lally et al., 2009). With that being said, schedule in time for your new behaviour and make effort to stick with it for the first few months, even if it’s painful. In the long-run, your efforts will pay off.
5| Find a role-model, and make your future self your best role model. If all of this isn’t enough, it might be helpful to start looking outside of yourself. If you’d like to start writing a blog, for example, it might be helpful to turn to some of your favourite bloggers for inspiration. Giving yourself a visual image of what you’d ultimately like to achieve can be a powerful motivator, and this is especially true for women turning towards other females (Lockwood, 2006). Going a little further, researchers at York University in Toronto found that third-person visualization is more powerful as a motivator than first-person visualization (Vasquez & Buehler, 2007). In other words, try to visualize your future successful self as another person might and you may very well find a significant boost in your willingness to pursue!
Lally, P., van Jaardsveld, C. H. M., Potts, H. W. W., & Wardle, J. (2009). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40(6), 998-1009.
Lockwood, P. (2006). “Someone like me can be successful”: Do college students need same-gender role models? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 36-46
Prochaska, J. O. & Velicer, W. F. (1997). The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. American Journal of Health Promotion, 12(1), 38-48.
Vasquez, N. A. & Buehler, R. (2007). “Seeing future success: Does imagery perspective influence achievement motivation?” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 33(10), 1392-1405.