Breaking up is hard to do
How many of you have ever made a resolution to change something in your life? Did you vow to lose weight, get in shape, change careers, save money, have a child, get a puppy, take up painting? Did you start toward this goal full of enthusiasm and then come to a screeching halt and stall out?
A few days ago I talked about wanting to break my habit of inertia and gain momentum in pursuing my dream of being a writer. I think most New Year’s resolutions have this in common – in order to gain something or achieve a goal, you have to give something up . They always seem to go hand in hand. I will never gain momentum unless I am willing to give up inertia.
If you want to lose weight, you have to give up your cookies. To get in shape, you have to get off the couch and give up some TV time. To save money, you have to skip your weekly bar-hopping jaunts with your friends. If you want to change careers, you may need to go back to school, and in doing so give up time and money.
I think the reason so many people, myself included, start toward a goal, or try to change a habit with great enthusiasm, only to have it wane within a few days, is that it is very hard to break up with our old habits. We have often lived with these habits and patterns for years, if not our entire lives. And, while we may know deep down that breaking up with them will be best for us in the long run, we miss them.
We miss the cookies, the television shows, the feeling we get when we buy a round of drinks for our table of friends. We may even miss our old bosses. These things were familiar to us and there was a comfort in knowing what to expect even if they were not making us happy.
As MJ Ryan wrote, “our brains create strong tendencies to do the same thing over and over.” It takes a lot of effort to change and bring something new into your life. You have to really want something to make changes to your life to make room for it.
The belief that one person can do it all is deceptive. Yes, you can do whatever you set your mind to, but you cannot do it all at once. Everyone is allotted the same 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and unfortunately, sometimes there truly are not enough hours in a day to do everything you want to do. You have to look at your days and decide where you can take a little time and energy and move it over to the pursuit of your goal.
To make time in my life for writing, I had to give up mindlessly surfing the internet on my lunch break. To squeeze in a morning workout, I had to give up that third cup of coffee while lounging on the couch reading a book. Now I take the book to the stationary bike and read while I sweat. I am still working on giving up on the cookies to lose a few pounds.
I also dream of learning to speak Italian, bake artisan bread and play the piano like a pro, but I realize that these dreams cannot all be pursued at this time. There simply are not enough hours in the day to devote the kind of attention each one would need if I were to gain any level of proficiency. Does this mean I will never do these things? No. It just means that I won’t be doing them right now.
In order to create a new habit or pattern in your life, you have to be completely honest with yourself. What do you wish to pursue more than anything else? You may be able to pursue two things at once, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to change too many things at once. It is a recipe for frustration and the abandonment of your dreams.
So tell me, what habit or pattern are you trying to break up with right now? What new thing do you want to bring into your life?