Putting Change, Real Change, Into Your Life

by Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

Your ultimate goal in life is to become your best self. Your immediate goal is to get on the path that will put you there. – David Viscott

 

A friend of mine said, yesterday, “I’ve broken all my New Year’s resolutions already.”  I have told clients (but, obv, forgot to tell friends as they hate being lectured) for years:  a New Year’s resolution stated once, and soon forgotten about, amounts to nothing more than a wish.

Many times the resolutions are gone by February (or, in my friend’s case, the middle of January). So the new “do over” time becomes Monday. Sometimes, for some people, it’s EVERY Monday because they lost their resolve the previous Wednesday and the Wednesday before that and the Wednesday before that. And that Monday to Wednesday ping-pong becomes their “normal.” And no matter how many times they do the Monday morning diet, they do the Wednesday afternoon snack attack. And then they think, “Well, I’ll start again on Monday.” As if, by some miracle, it will be different this time.

Are you guilty of this? If so, how can you break this cycle of broken promises to yourself? The GPYB workbook contains the Goals chapter which I could not convince my publisher needed to be in GPYB or GBOT.  This is a mini -version of it:

Well there are a few keys to breaking the cycle…..


THE KEYS TO BREAKING THE CYCLE:

1. DECIDE EVERY SINGLE DAY TO COMMIT TO CHANGE
2. DEFINE YOUR SHORT TERM AND LONG-TERM GOALS

3. VISUALIZE THE CHANGE
4. AFFIRM THE CHANGE

5. DON’T LET ANY SLIPS KEEP YOU DOWN
6. RESTART IMMEDIATELY

DECIDE EVERY SINGLE DAY TO COMMIT TO CHANGE

The first thing is to understand that you have to decide, every day, to change and to commit to your decision.

Resolve has to happen EVERYDAY, whether it’s Monday or Tuesday or Thursday or July 15th. It has to happen every day of every year.To change permanently, there has to be a commitment in place EVERY DAY.


DEFINE YOUR SHORT-TERM and LONG-TERM GOALS

As it talks about in the workbook, you have to have goals that consist of long-term goals and short-term goals. If your goal is to lose 50 lbs, you don’t say, “My goal is to lose 50 lbs.” and leave it at that. You need to take the time, before doing anything else, to set out what you are going to do to lose those 50 lbs. Don’t say, “I”m going to eat healthy.” and leave it at that. You have to define what healthy looks like and when you’re going to do it and how you’re going to do it. But you WRITE those short-term goals down. “I am going to prepare my healthy lunches for the week on Sunday.” “I am going to pack fruit before long trips in the car.” You can also put in when you will have a “cheat” meal. “I will allow myself to eat whatever I want at Mary’s wedding on the 5th.” So you have definitive goals not only to lose weight but so that you don’t feel deprived as if you’re never going to eat anything sweet again.

Use the same approach with exercise. Saying “I am going to exercise 3 times a week.” doesn’t really define how you’re going to do it. Break that down into concrete steps. I will go to 1 class at the gym (Zumba at 7:00 on Mondays), take one long walk (3 miles on Sunday), and a yoga class (sunrise Yoga on Wednesday mornings). This might seem like a “light” schedule for someone who wants to lose 50 lbs, and it is. But you have to start slow because part of failing, especially at a weight loss program, is doing too much too soon.

When I quit smoking (March 13, 1998…coming up on 20 years) I had always heard that “cold turkey” was the best way to quit, so I tried it and failed several times. The last time I tried and succeeded (20-count em TWENTY years ago in March), was nothing like the other times. I decided that I was going to ratchet down the cigarettes with a concrete plan. I had done hypnosis. I had done the patch (relatively new at the time) but the patch gives you a steady stream of nicotine all day long. Cigarettes don’t work like that. You smoke a cigarette and it satisfies your nicotine addiction. As the amount of nicotine in your bloodstream decreases, you want another one, so you smoke and get a JOLT of nicotine…and so it goes all day long.

The patch does not give you the JOLT and I found the JOLT is what I was needing and missing. So I was told that nicotine gum did that for you and it made sense to me. I would chew the gum anytime I would normally smoke a cigarette…only not right away. I really believed, based on the number of times I had quit…that charging full steam ahead with a plan to replace ALL my cigarettes with gum…would be another failure. I would still miss the feeling of having a cigarette in my hand and – though I now DESPISE the smell of cigarettes – I would miss it back then. I knew I would. I had to be patient. I had to do things DIFFERENTLY than the way things had failed.

My plan was to start slowly decreasing the number of cigarettes I had in a day and replacing them with Nicorette gum (which I hated, but worked wonderfully). I charted out a 30 day plan of decreasing and a drop-dead quit date. My quit date was on a day I would be on an airplane all day (13 hour trip), so that helped a great deal. I also charted out a 30 day plan AFTER the quit date to do different things each day so that my “routine” was broken. I associated certain activities and places with smoking and it was important to change those around. I moved my computer out of my office and into my bedroom (I smoked at the computer but we did not allow smoking in our bedroom). I drove my husband’s truck instead of my car. I begged off the Tuesday night coffee with my friends (smokers, one and all). PLUS I added walking and a list of things to do whenever I wanted to smoke.

When I quit cold turkey, I had only one distraction activity on my list. I had decided to take a shower. I worked in a building that had a gym and shower, I had a shower at my regular gym, and of course showers at home. Well, I was showering about 10 times a day. I had never figured anything else out, so one day my water logged self decided to smoke instead of getting wet for the 7th time that day. And that happened because I had not planned out any alternatives to smoking other than taking a shower. I hadn’t changed my habits or routine. In other words, I had not set any short-term or long-term goals other than “not smoking.” That doesn’t work with a monkey on your back like nicotine.

Take the time each day to review your goals and set new ones if need be. As stated above, the exercise regime for the person who wants to lose 50 lbs. is pretty light. But if this person goes at it too hard and too fast, failure is the only option. So this person needs to get into the exercise rhythm for a few weeks and then add or change things. Not the very next week or even the week after that. Build into a rhythm and a routine first. Then add to it.

VISUALIZE THE CHANGE

You have to spend time EVERY DAY visualizing the new you. Spend some quiet time alone and imagine the YOU that you want to be going through a day. Start to see yourself being the best person you can be. Start to see yourself implementing the changed person you want to be. Set aside a time each day to do this so that when you do something that does not comport with that new and healthy image, you feel uncomfortable. Visualization has to be reality based. If you want to lose 10 lbs, you’re not going to visualize yourself being Mr. or Ms. Muscle 2012. You’re going to visualize fitting into your clothes and not being upset every morning when you’re getting dressed. You’re going to visualize feeling happy and comfortable and maybe buying a few styles that you can’t wear now.

If you want to save money, you can visualize what it’s like to look at your bank statement and not see zero or overdrawn or just a pittance. You can imagine people saying you’re responsible with money. You also have to visualize yourself turning down things that you would normally buy or visualize a well-thought out purchase instead of impulse buys. You visualize yourself being fiscally responsible in every way. Think of the ways that have undermined you in the past and visualize yourself being successful in not being undermined.


AFFIRM THE CHANGE

The GPYB and GBOT books have in-depth sections on affirmations. Use it to achieve the goals you want to achieve. Apply it to each of the steps above.

Take the time each day to not only affirm what you are doing but also take the time to affirm your commitment to yourself. Remember, affirmations must be positive, present and personal. No negative words. Start to affirm that “I am changing and growing.” and keep that commitment to yourself every day. Say “I am eating healthy and exercising.” throughout the day. Say “I am ignoring the ex.” Say, “I surround myself with healthy and happy people.” “I am smoke-free.” or whatever change you want to make. This plan works for everything…any change you want to make for the better…you can use this plan.

Come up with your own affirmations and be sure to say them the first thing in the morning, throughout the day, and the last thing you say at night. Make the commitment real. Otherwise it is just a wish. There are MANY Affirmation videos on the GPYB YouTube channel and how to do them RIGHT.  Here’s the Affirmation webinar Link.


DON’T LET SLIPS KEEP YOU DOWN

If you spend your weekend preparing for a new and healthy lifestyle starting Monday and lasting forever, don’t lose your resolve if you find yourself eating an ice-cream sandwich at 3:00 on Wednesday afternoon. Don’t say to yourself, “Well, I’ve already blown this diet, might as well dig into that bag of potato chips.” Say, “I’m eating healthy and working out.” and then remove yourself from food temptations and follow your food plan for the rest of the day.

People will say “I’m trying to eat 1500 calories a day of lean protein, good carbs and low fat, and that ice cream sandwich was 200 calories of fat and sugar! I’ve blown it! So why continue to follow the plan for the rest of the day?” Well, because it’s easier to “get rid of” 200 calories of fat and sugar than the extra 500 calories of fat if you also eat those potato chips. If you eat the ice-cream sandwich and then go out for a walk rather than eat the potato chips, you’re still ahead. You have not only saved yourself from the extra calories, but going for a walk to burn off that ice-cream will help you mentally. You have not allowed the sandwich to defeat you, and you’ve practiced making good choices. That doesn’t mean to slip every single day and go “Oh well, that’s my slip for the day…” because that’s not a mindset you want to be in EITHER, but if you do slip, let it go and move past it as quickly as possible. Not by engaging in MORE negative behavior but by immediately doing some positive behavior.

Your new change, whether it’s a new food plan, a new exercise regime, not drinking, not smoking, not speaking to the ex, not engaging in unhealthy behavior etc. will happen much quicker if you don’t allow yourself to be completely defeated by a moment when you went back to old behavior. You have to wake up every day and commit to your new change. And if you struggle or falter, you have to start again right then and there.

Learn from your mistakes, don’t hide from them. If you consistently fail at 3 pm every day then perhaps that is the time to eat an apple, go for a walk, call a friend. Look at your slips and find out what you can do to preempt them. Do you always want to call the ex on Sunday afternoon because you’re bored and you used to do things together on that day? Plan something before Sunday afternoon comes. Don’t drag around on Sunday saying, “Woe is me…” Take the time to re-define Sunday afternoon and put some distance between its meaning and the ex.

Use your errors productively and don’t wallow in them or use them as an excuse to not do the things you need to do for positive, long-lasting change.

RESTART IMMEDIATELY

If we have a slip, we can do it over at any time…this day, this hour, this minute, this second. Forget about superficial “start lines” like tomorrow, Mondays or the first of the year. Do it NOW. Do it TODAY. This day, this hour, this minute, this second. Detach from whatever “do over” days are in your head or have been part of your pattern. Break the pattern. Right now. Not on Monday. Not on NEXT January 1st. But NOW.

Monday morning wishes hold us back. The defeatist thinking that happens on Wednesday, “Oh no, I screwed up, now I have to wait until next Monday to start all over.” holds us back. If you slip on Wednesday or Tuesday or Thursday, just recommit to yourself and resolve to start over NOW, in the next MINUTE, not next Monday.

And stay away from self-condemnation for your fall. Don’t decide to beat yourself after failing. Decide to pick yourself up after falling. If you think, “I’m a failure…” then you will be. Stay away from that mindset. If you say, “I can’t do this…” then you can’t. If you think, “I can do this.” then you can. You have to stay positive and move on from any hiccup. You have to commit each day. You have to have your goals well-defined.

There’s an old saying, “If wishes were fishes, we’d all have a good swim.” Most of us have a good swim every week from Monday to Wednesday or every January 1 to January 15th.

Don’t keep wishing to change. Plan it, define it and commit to it. Wishing doesn’t make it so…the only thing that makes it so is ACTIVELY changing your thoughts and behaviors and working on the things holding you back.

TODAY, TOMORROW and the NEXT DAY. Every day make the commitment to change your life.

YOU CAN DO THIS!!!


Copyright 2018 Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.

I Teach What I Know. I Have The Degrees, but I Have The EXPERIENCE and I don’t ask anyone to do anything I have not done.”

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