We all have certain personal behaviours we wish we could change. Whether this change can be related to healthy eating choices, lifestyle choices, decisions related to work or relationship choices. Some of us set goals to achieve our dreams or improve our behaviour and wellness. And in order to achieve these goals, certain negative habitual patterns need to be replaced by positive ones that actually stick. But despite our intentions, more often we fail to be consistent in our efforts. When we are starting out in a new goal, we are full of energy and enthusiasm. We eagerly make changes in the first few weeks. But as the days pass on, the newness wears off and we fall off the wagon back into old behavioural and habitual patterns. Many lack potential to be consistent with the change.
Why is it difficult to change and be consistent with change once we decide upon it!
The main reason being our own perception of change. We begin to form these perceptions from a young age. Because of this, thinking of change makes us feel uneasy and we start resisting changes we wish we could have made. Because of the perceived risk or fear attached to it, we end up procrastinating, stressing ourselves up or ending up dropping the changes and resorting to old behavioural or negative habitual patterns.
We always have a choice when it comes to choosing between self-managed lifestyle and our present orientation. Most of our positive habits develop out of necessity, without specific intention. This can make us inconsistent in following our resolutions inspite of putting in the time and effort. We are often unaware and unprepared for change because of our habitual nature of our behaviour, which drives much of our daily activities as often as usual. Change in our habitual behaviour cannot happen in linear fashion or in a single moment but only occurs gradually.
Factors that obstruct change
When we want to implement a change, we temporarily face resistance by becoming angry and withdrawn. Thinking “it’s all hopeless and impossible to make changes, so, why try?” or “just stay the way you are” is what usually keeps you from it. when we have some habitual and behavioural patterns buried deeply within us, often our reaction is to think the approach is silly, or it doesn’t make sense, or unacceptable. We don’t want to do it. Because of this it becomes difficult to switch between habitual behaviour and deliberate decision. The effective method is to reduce the habitual control over behaviour and modify the factors that control the behaviour.
Here are some factors which impede your ability to be consistent with the change.
• Even when you know your old habits are inefficient, you remain convinced that they are necessary for success.
• Your environment is unsupportive of the habits you are trying to cultivate or the changes you’re trying to make.
• Undervaluing the achievement and overvaluing the importance of the interruption.
• Misplaced belief in a less effective habit leads you astray and a positive belief in bad habits turn a habit into a permanent behaviour.
• Lack of motivation and lack of conscious intention towards change.
• Incorrect perception of the advantages of change and deeply ingrained contrary perspectives interfere with your ability to keep up with the change.
• Having an inflated self control belief or overestimating the ability to control can increase chances of exposing yourself to impulsiveness.
• Not having proper commitment to plan, act and make substantial adjustments to keep up with the intended change.
To shift from habit to goal-directed action, you have to make an effort to do small things that will add up to you moving in that direction of change. The mind is a pattern making system. You should be capable of breaking out of inherited collective mind-patterns and cast off your limitations in order to adopt to your new behaviour to be in consistent with it.
Here are certain ways to progress in the direction of change and to be consistent.
Identify consistent cues
Our behaviours are triggered by physical and mental cues. When you put your plans into action, you have to make substantial adjustments to your routine, environment, your relationship and to yourself in order to further the change you desire. For instance, if you are looking to decrease procrastination, you should follow a realistic and purposeful daily schedule. By engaging in habits consistently, you can maintain a stable routine. Identify those things that happen with relative consistency from your daily routine and use them as anchors for your new behaviour or habits.
Be persistent in your efforts
From the moment you decide to make a change until you get the demonstration, there is a transitional period. You tend to go back and forth between what was and what you would like to be or to have. Don’t beat yourself up for the step backward and view it as a relapse into past habits. Trust that you will have plenty of days in the future to get back on track. At the same time remember to praise yourself for each small step forward that you make. Reflect back on advantages of the commitment you have made to be persistent in your efforts.
Develop insight awareness
Most of the times, you may not find yourself commit to making a change because of feeling a overwhelming sense of uncertainty. By analysing the advantages and disadvantages of continuing with the proposed behaviour and thinking through all possible avenues towards change, can help you in setting measurable goals and not to give up on them easily. It is essential to look at how your old habitual behaviour may conflict with your personal goals. This can be helpful to correct your perception of the advantage of change and can motivate you to progress in the direction of change.
Rely on intrinsic motivation
Sometimes, intrinsic motivation enhances your efforts of staying consistent with change by directly reinforcing the changed habits or behaviour. If you are intrinsically motivated, you continue with the changed habit or behaviour because you find it inherently satisfying. On the other hand, if your change is influenced by pressure from others, your willingness to be with the change will be short lived. By knowing why that desired change is important to you, you can reinforce your willingness to keep up and you can get through brief periods of temptation and can provide yourself with positive reinforcement of your changed behaviour or habit.
Once your desired habit or behaviour is established, chances of returning to old habits or behaviour may always be present. It is important to avoid those things that might trigger your old behaviours or habits to reappear. Avoid overthinking or feeling guilty if you find yourself fluctuating back and forth. Reflecting upon these triggers can help you avoid them the next time around. Acknowledge your responsibility in having created that condition and plan on what you would do differently in the future to avoid these triggers.
Develop mental agility to deal with change more effectively. Work on your own change. Do not identify with unhappy, fearful and limited self. Cast off your limitations. Break out of inherited collective mind-patterns and habits to achieve whatever you intend.
The majority of people fail at building life-changing habits because they start strong but give up early. You can’t focus on achieving something overnight. It takes time until you are strong in the new and have gone through complete change. Until then, you must be vigilant in your endeavours to change. Even the tiniest of efforts, when done consistently that brings you good results over time.
Notice if any of your long-standing behaviours are causing anxiety, guilt, fear, or depression, identify as to what factors are controlling your behaviour and work on changing them one by one and stay consistent in your efforts.