Tis the season when we all start to think about making that damn resolution. Sometimes it feels good to set a goal, to commit to something, to challenge yourself and other times we do it begrudgingly or with a sense of dread or even fear.
As a New Year approaches, I challenge you NOW to start thinking about how you can do better in your personal life. Create goals for yourself….These are resolutions in a sense. Write it down. Commit to it. But in order to do so you need to think about what that entails….how is this potential change going to impact my life? What changes do I need to make in my life to reach these goals? What are the potential or very real obstacles in my way, seen and unforeseen?? What am I going to do if I start teetering on the edge? What supports do I have in place?? How am I going to Master this new ‘practice’??
While you are thinking along those lines, I wanted to take a minute to share my personal summary of an important blurb from a great book (Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment). Important stuff to read now before you try to tackle a new goal and start to slip away from it or find yourself putting up “fire walls” to it……
When you create a new goal, a new resolution or a plan for change in your life, you resolve to yourself to reach those goals. You resolve to make a change for the better in your life. You tell your friends and family about it, you put it in writing. You actually make the change, it works and it feels good! Your happy about it, your friends and family are happy about it. Your life is better! Then you backslide.
Why?! Are you some kind of slob with no will power??!! No, not necessarily. Backsliding is a universal experience. Everyone of us resists significant change, no matter whether it’s for the worst or for the better. Our body, brain and behavior have a built-in tendency to stay the same within rather narrow limits, and to snap back when changed – and normally it is a very good thing.
Just think about it: if your body temperature moved up or down by 10%, you’d be in big trouble. The same thing applies to your blood sugar level and any number of other functions of your body. This condition of equilibrium, this resistance to change is called homeostasis. It applies to all self regulating systems from a bacterium to a frog to a human to a family to an organization to an entire culture…and it applies to psychological states and behavior as well as physical functioning.
The problem is homeostasis works to keep things as they are even if they are not good. Let’s say, for instance, that for the past 20 years – ever since high school in fact – you’ve been almost entirely sedentary. Now most of your friends are working out, and you figure since you can’t beat the fitness revolution, you’ll join it. Buying the tights and the running shoes is fun and so isn’t your first steps on the high school track near your house. Then about a third of the way around the first lap, something terrible happens…maybe your suddenly sick to your stomach, maybe your dizzy, maybe a strange panicky feeling starts to overcome you. You feel like your going to die! The particular sensations your feeling aren’t necessarily significant in themselves. What your really getting is a homeostatic alarm signal…bells clanging, lights flashing. Warning, warning, warning! Changes in respiration, heart rate, metabolism..whatever your doing stop!
Homeostasis, remember, doesn’t distinguish between what you would call change for the better or change for the worse. It resists ALL change. After 20 years without exercise, your body regards a sedentary style of life as “normal”; the beginning of a change for the better is interpreted as a threat. So you walk back to your car, looking around in hopes no one saw you, and resolve to join some other revolution.
This can happen with any significant change, whether it is physiological in nature or psychological or social in nature. Take the case of a family of five. The father happens to be an alcoholic who goes on a binge every 6-8 weeks. During the time he is drinking, and for several days afterwards, the family is in an uproar. It’s nothing new. These periodic uproars, have in fact become the normal state of things. Then for one reason or anther, the father stops drinking. You’d think that everyone in the family would be happy – and they are, for awhile. But homeostasis has a strange and sneaky way of striking back. There’s a pretty good chance that within a few months, some other family memeber, (say a teenage son) will do something (say start dealing drugs) to create just the type of uproar the father’s binges triggered. Without wise professional counseling, the members may not realize that the son, unknowingly, has simply taken the father’s place to keep the family system in the condition that has become stable and “normal”. In order to survive, we want “stability”.
Still change does occur, individuals change, families change, organizations and entire cultures change. Homeostats are “reset”, even though the process may cause a certain amount of anxiety, pain and upset. Just as your body will change, your cravings will change, your metabolism will change. The questions are: How do you deal with homeostasis? How do you make changes for the better easier? How do you make it last?
How can you??…….
Ultimately you have to decide if you really do want to spend the time and effort it takes to get on and stay on the path. If you do, and if you want to “DO EPIC SHIT”… here are a few guidelines that might help.
1: Be aware of the way homeostasis works: This might be the most important guideline of all. Expect resistance and backlash. Realize that when the alarm bells start ringing, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are sick, or crazy or lazy or that you made a bad decision embarking onthis journey. In fact, you might take these signals as an indication that change is indeed happening – just what you wanted! Of course it might be that you have started something that is not right for you, only you can decide. But in any case, don’t panic and give up at the first sign of trouble.
2: Be willing to negotiate with your resistance to change: So what should you do when you run into resistance, when the red lights flash and the alarm bell rings? Well you don’t back off and you don’t bull your way through either. Negotiation is the ticket to sucessful long-term change in everything from increasing your running speed or your push up rep to transforming your organization. The fine art of playing the edge in some cases involves a willingness to take one step back for every two forward, sometimes vice versa. It also demands a determination to keep pushing, but not without awareness. Simply turning off your awareness to the warning deprives you of guidance and risks damaging the system. Simply pushing your way through despite the warning signals increases the possibility of backsliding. (think over pushing yourself and your abilities at bootcamp causing injury causing you to miss your next few workouts).
3: Develop a support system: You can do it alone, but it helps a great deal to have other people with whom you can share the joys and perils of the change your making. The best support system would involve people that are going through or have gone through a similar process, people who can tell there own stories and listen to yours, people who will brace up when you start to backslide and who will encourage you along when you don’t.
4: Follow a regular practice: It is after all a practice, which involves regular time and effort to master. People embarking on any type of change can gain stability and comfort through practicing some worthwhile activity on a more regular basis. Practice is a habit, and any regular practice provides a sort of underlying homeostasis, a stable base during the instability of change.
5: Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning: We tend to forget that learning is much more than book learning. To learn is to grow and change, or rather adapt. Eduction, whether it involves a book, body or behavior, is a process that changes the learner. It doesn’t have to end at college graduation or at age 40 or 60 or 80, and the best learning of all involves learning how to learn – that is, to change.
6. Commit to Making This Your Best F-ing Year!!