Change is occurring every moment of every day. Every living organism is dynamic and ever-evolving. This is a scientific fact that no one can dispute. Even though many people do not like change, it is an inevitable factor of being alive.
If we accept that we are constantly changing, that we are organic beings whose energy is constantly in the flow of change, why then are we often resistant to intentionally changing something about ourselves that causes us anger, stress, frustration, or sadness?
How often have we asked ourselves, ‘Why do I keep giving up on my goal to….’ ‘Why can’t I stick to my exercise schedule?’ Is it because we are stubborn? Lazy? Easily distractible? There are many reasons we create to avoid facing the truth. But, reasons are just reasons. Excuses are excuses, a way to back down from a commitment. Excuses do not help us feel better about our half-hearted attempts, they actually make us feel worse. Yet, we continue to think and behave the same way fully knowing that we will fall short of our expectations, let alone objectives.
It is an odd phenomenon that we repeat patterns of thought and behavior that derail and disappoint us. Yet, so many of us do, time and time again, knowing all it will do is cause us additional stress and despair.
Self-Improvement is Not Easy
I have worked with ambitious, intelligent, hard-working, disciplined people who one would think—based on their character traits–would be committed in their personal effort to change themselves, yet even the most inspired individuals struggle with self-change.
Why? Because thoughts and behavior are not easy to change. By the time we are young adults, we have a “way” of doing things, a process in our mind that becomes routine. As much as everyone of us would admittedly love to have a quick-fix to address the issues we find distressing, there is no magic or fad that will achieve sustainable change.
The issues that impede one’s ability to achieve sustainable change vary from person-to-person, and there are one million excuses thrown about when a person does not meet their goals, however, the most common saboteur of attaining change is a lack of holistic commitment.
What is holistic commitment? Firstly, holistic refers to considering the whole person, mind, body, and soul. Holistic means that that every component of who we are is interconnected. Committing holistically to yourself is more than making a decision, choosing a course of action, being mindful, intentional or self-aware—all of which are integral aspects of growth and transformation, and key to long-term sustenance. But, in order to make a meaningful and long-lasting program for self-improvement, a person must have an internal pledge that engages their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual dimensions. This pledge is sacrosanct. Untouchable. Irreversible. And, it is one that is aligned with your innermost core being, and is not the result of external pressure. I refer to this as a wholehearted, whole-minded, whole-bodied, whole-souled resolution to which one feels profoundly devoted. This means nothing or no one can challenge or sabotage your pledge to yourself.
When we decide to lose weight or exercise, for example, two of the most common personal care challenges, we typically want fast results, minor effort, no pain, have a short mental timeframe, and most of the time, we are doing it for the wrong reasons. And, the wrong reasons are ones that come from outside of you. Either someone is urging you to do something, or you feel it is something you have to do rather than desire to do. Sustainable change is derived from being wholly and holistically invested, knowing that the road to change takes time and patience, involves effort, setbacks, road blocks, yet you are going to stay the course and do what it takes to feel strong, proud, and healthy.
We human beings have a major advantage when it comes to self-improvement. In fact, it is quite remarkable. Through the science of neuroplasticity, we know that our brain can change at any age or stage of life. When we learn new patterns of thought, and repeat these thoughts for a period of two to three months, our brain forms new neural pathways that enable us to maintain and sustain our new thoughts and behavior. What in the beginning required a lot of time and effort, with repetition becomes habit.
The key is to comprehend and accept that losing weight, eating more healthfully, embarking upon an exercise regimen, learning to be more loving, patient, organized, disciplined, or any personal change that will improve the quality of your life–requires time and your pledge to stick with it. Anyone can change, even in the late phases of adulthood.
With neuroplasticity as the baseline and catalyst for change, each one of us has the capacity to become who we desire by rewiring our brain and changing the habits that have caused us duress.
Begin today. Keep track of your thoughts and those sticky patterns that are nagging at you. Listen to the triggers that try to trip you up, and most of all, be aware and mindful of what you want to achieve at all times as this will help you during the more challenging moments. Remember: sustainable self-change depends on time and your commitment.