January is like the grown-up of all the months. After busting into our room without knocking, it says, “Okay, you’ve had your fun. It’s time get serious and clean things up around here.” And, so we do. With the proper 90-day (diet, exercise, savings, clean up, whatever) plan, we resolve to become better versions of ourselves. The New Year’s Resolution monkey will finally be off our backs.
Then it’s go time. We’ve signed up, now it’s time to show up. For most of us, the average 90-day resolution timeline might look something like this: In January, we go all in. It’s fist-pumps-for-change month. By mid-February, our resolutions start to feel a little confining and inconvenient. In March? Get it together, man. By April? (fade to black, crickets chirping…). Though we might give ourselves points for the effort (and vow to try again next year), our big plan for change didn’t stick. What happened?
Lasting change happens by staying in the struggle.
For change to last, you have to stay in the struggle long enough to shift your mindset from problem to solution, from resistance to resilience; from short-term gain to long-term change. Here are 10 growth mindset strategies that can help:
- Opt for progress over perfection, always. If perfection is your guide for success, it will be a fail 100% of the time. Even if your social media newsfeed portrays it otherwise, there is no perfect. Perfect is an illusion. Change happens by making incremental progress consistently over time. Move the needle not the haystack.
- Stay in the moment. Actual change can only happen in this moment. This very hard, annoying, painful moment. Just keep showing up in the change, do the next right thing, and you’ll make forward motion. Eventually, the uncomfortable feelings will pass.
- Give yourself a hall-pass for mistakes and setbacks. You get unlimited do-overs in the process of living into the human being you were created to be. Failing to reach your goals does not make you a failure. Honor your humanity and be self-compassionate when setbacks happen. Your chances for long-term success increase exponentially when your self-talk stays positive.
- Ignore your mental trash-talk. Change takes incredible courage and vulnerability. It can trigger mental trash-talk from your negative inner critic which uses shame to drive you right back to the comfort zone. Replace the critic’s perspective with an empathetic viewpoint that supports you in your life. And, just keep going.
- Build relationships around the change. Making changes in your life is hard enough. Doing it alone is the classic set up for tapping out. Connect with others that will walk the journey with you. They are your best sources of empathy, encouragement, and accountability.
- Don’t compare your progress with someone else’s. As social creatures, we humans naturally compare ourselves to others. A little friendly competition can be healthy and motivating from time to time. But, be aware that making comparisons can easily foster negative emotions like jealousy, shame, or pride. Guaranteed de-railers.
- Train your brain for change. Shaking up the behavioral status-quo is a bummer to our brains. It requires a reshuffling of established (and mostly unconscious) patterns of thoughts and actions (aka our habits). Here’s the cool thing: the brain is an learning machine. It adapts quickly and will build new neural networks to support your goals. But the brain is also lazy and will choose the path of least resistance every time. You have to be the boss by choosing and practicing new courses of action again and again.
- Change triggers fear. Recent brain studies have shown that during change, primitive parts of the brain work in a protective way, triggering the release of cortisol and fight-or-flight responses. Change forces us to recon with the many faces of fear: failure, abandonment, embarrassment, criticism, pain, etc. Best thing you can do is notice it, feel it, accept it, and let it go. If that’s not possible, talk to a trusted friend or counselor who can help you understand what’s holding you hostage to the fear.
- Make your goals secondary to the journey of change. Struggle is a profound teacher. There’s more to you than being the person who ran the marathon, lost the weight, saved the money, or organized the garage. What did you learn about you during the process?
- Be curious about what’s driving your goals. Our brains can trick us into believing that once we reach our goals we will finally be happy. As if losing those 20 pounds also sheds our anxiety, negative body issues, relationship problems, addictions, etc. Psychologically, it’s easier to shape-shift internal messiness into something quantifiable, acceptable, and fixable. If your checklists and workout plans are smoke screens for dealing with something deeper, it’s likely that you’ll yo-yo back to where you started. Unresolved emotional pain does not go away by itself. If left untreated, it actually gets worse over time.
Be encouraged; you can overcome whatever is holding you back from living a healthier and more meaningful life. Lasting change is absolutely possible, probably not easy, but definitely worth it. At Seasons we’ve counseled hundreds of clients and helped them make lasting changes and experience real growth. We would love to help you too. Call us at (407) 960-3938 to set up an appointment today.