Complete article: 10 minute read
We all know of someone who’s hit “rock bottom”.
Even celebrities who “have it all” are not immune to waiting for a crisis: Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Hugh Grant, Mickey Rourke, Ben Affleck, Michael Vick, Lawrence Taylor. The list goes on and on…
Why did they wait so long to figure out there was a problem? Others saw it, why couldn’t they?
Here are five reasons we wait for a crisis before deciding to act.
- We are creatures of habit. We are hard-wired for habitual behaviour. We create neural pathways as we repeat behaviours until they become sub-conscious and our default way of thinking and behaving.
- We are trained to respond to immediate gratification. We create habitual behaviours based on what gives us quick feel-good responses; shopping, pornography, gambling, sugar, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, fast food, and instant messaging.
- We live in a society of busy – running to our next appointment, taking the kids to their activities, working overtime, we run on adrenaline and stress – who has time to think long-term?
- The “devil we know” is often more palatable than the one we don’t. What we know gives us a sense of comfort and stability.
- We don’t like taking risks. Change is risky, so we procrastinate and avoid choices that will cause discomfort of the unknown.
So what happens?
We ignore warning signs, and against our better judgment, we continue doing things we’ve always done, we settle, even when we know what we’re doing is harmful or unhelpful. “Nah, it will never happen to me… I’m okay, really…”
We develop a habit of waiting for a crisis – unwilling to contemplate changing our unhealthy behaviours – until we get hit with a stiff dose of negative motivation where the pain of staying the same outweighs the pain of change.
So we make a change with the best of intentions.
But how often do these changes last – do New Years resolutions ring a bell?
We have a habit of reverting to old habits.
Old habits are powerful.
Our sub-conscious is trained to use those default patterns of behaviour. If we aren’t determined to be in it for the long haul, we lose our motivation, minimize the memory of past pain, and end up repeating the cycle.
We doubt our ability to change. We talk ourselves back into our old way of being. “I’m too old. I can’t change. It’s too hard. I’ve tried. It wasn’t so bad. I’ll do better this time. I’ll start tomorrow. Someday…” We’re great at telling ourselves stories that reinforce “old-faithful” behaviours.
Those closest to us often encourage us to stay as we are, or the opposite – tell us what we should do differently. Both can influence us to return to old habits.
What about those who successful implement long-term change after a crisis, or those who change without a crisis? How do they do it?
Sometimes it’s hard-core determination that is based on short-term motivation – focusing on the pain of staying the same, the “kick-in-the-ass”, that drives them forward.
Successful change based on short-term, pain-based motivation, is effective for only a small number of people.
A method for successful change that works for most people is long-term based that involves three parts.
Personal determination to change. We must be determined and committed to making the change, for us, or it won’t last.
Leverage short-term pain-based motivation. Motivation based on the pain of staying the same is extremely powerful early in the change process and as a reminder when we need it to stay on track.
Create a vision of long-term inspiring outcomes. We need inspiration to change, to understand the long-term benefits to the change – a vision. What goals, dreams or possibilities will be available to us? How could our life be better one, two, five, ten years in the future?
In order for the change to last, the long-term benefits of the change must outweigh both the short-term pain of the change, and the long-term consequences of staying the same.
We don’t need a crisis before deciding to change, but we often do because we were never taught a way to deal with choice in a positive and proactive manner.
There is an easy to use and powerful method to build motivation and inspiration for successful change.
Do a choice comparison.
- Write out the reasons, for the pros and cons for staying the same and for the change you’re contemplating.
- Next, identify your priorities. Give each reason listed a number of importance from 1-10. Notice what your priorities are.
- Motivational pain is found in the cons of staying the same – continuing as is, the long-term negative consequences – powerful short-term motivation.
- Short-term gains are found in the pros of staying the same – the “quick-wins”, what’s easy, the feel-good results of dopamine and endorphins, fast ways of coping and escaping. Understanding that these are temporary will lower their significance.
- Short-term pain is found in the cons of making the change – why people revert back to the old behaviour. It’s too damn uncomfortable… Knowing these in advance will increase your chance of success – no surprises!
- Inspiration is found in the pros of the change you’re contemplating – long-term gains, goals, dreams, a better, healthier and more fulfilling life. Now that’s appealing.
That’s it: simple, elegant and powerful.
This method can be used repeatedly with any choice you’re considering. Once complete, you can revisit your decision at any time to use the short-term pain of motivation – kick-in-the-ass – or the long-term inspiration to keep you on track.
No more excuses. Now you have all the facts in front of you. Make your decision with clarity of the implications – stay the same or make the change.
Your decision comes down to choosing between:
- Changing – short-term pain for long-term gain or,
- Staying the same – long-term pain for short-term gain.
Get control of your life. Be empowered with your choices instead of waiting to feel you have no choice.
Be proactive instead of reactive.
Don’t wait to for a crisis to make that change.