- You Need to Make Changes- But Where Do You Begin?
- How to Implement Changes So That They Don’t Ruin Everything
- So You’ve Made Some Changes to Your Life- Now What?
You’ve spent three weeks doing a proof of concept of the change you want to make in your life. If you did the planning stage well, chances are good it worked out okay.
So what’s next? Wait — no, stop! You’re not on to the next thing already, are you? You haven’t solidified your gains yet.
The next stage of the game consists of refining and solidifying the change you set up. You’re in the nascent stages of a habit change right now, and it won’t take much to boot you off the wagon.
Unfortunately, western culture has led us to believe that whenever anything isn’t working quite as well as it should, what it really needs is a good shake-up in order to knock out the useless parts. Then, when everything settles, you’ll have a tight, efficient system again.
That might even be true (for about five minutes, at the rate this world is going) but even if you didn’t have any bugs to work out, it’s highly inefficient to be knocking down your systems every time you become dissatisfied with them.
Sure it’s sometimes necessary, but it can also be an insidious form of Resistance.
Allow me to introduce you to the concept of kaizen.
Kaizen is a philosophy of continuous, incremental improvement. It’s a system of tweaking, polishing and refinement that allows a system to grow and evolve because of its users’ persistent attention to the reason for the system.
However, this is not so straight-forward as finding the best way to construct a VCR.
The way we construct hard strategies in our life for ephemeral things like happiness, fulfillment, and self-care means that it’s all too easy to lose sight of why we’re doing what we’re doing.
I knew a woman who, in an effort to take better care of herself, vowed to do yoga for an hour every day. Four days into that challenge, all she wanted to do was have a bubble bath and go to bed early.
It’s not in the spirit of the Why of your change to persist when your methods aren’t working
Making change is not a set-it-and-forget-it thing. Would that it were so easy.
After you’ve spent time getting your new habit into place, spend some time, perhaps a week, thinking about the why behind the change, and if it’s really being served. If it is, (and it probably is, or you wouldn’t have lasted the three weeks) ask yourself if it’s the only way to serve that why.
Routine is great, but you’re going to want ways to switch up that routine in a manner that stays true to the Why. To use the example from above, maybe my friend should make a list of good, supportive self-care things to do, so that she’s never at a loss for those times when yoga just isn’t happening. It’s not even that you need the list around to look it up. You just need to take the time to consider what would also work. This makes you flexible.
And tweak your system. Maybe stealing an extra hour at night to work isn’t working for you. Try early mornings. If that doesn’t work, try a twenty minute nap or some exercise right after work to improve your stamina. Track what happens when you eat different foods, or drink coffee or wine. How does music affect your ability to work? Test, and tweak. Test, and tweak.
That way, you avoid the killer drawbacks of routines; they’re always the same, they no longer best serve the purpose they were designed for, and they become arbitrary placeholders. That’s the maintenance part of making changes. A change isn’t like flicking a switch, it’s more like tacking a sail. It’s working on your behalf, but you have to pay attention.
Not to mention, keeping a higher-level focus on the purpose behind the action is great mindfulness training. You know, if that was one of the changes you were looking at making.