The things we consciously and unconsciously think, say, and do on a daily basis create our realities. When you look at your life, are you inspired? Good habits can help you change for the better, finally move forward, and even have you feeling limitless.
Let’s say you genuinely want to be a better version of yourself. But you’ve tried and haven’t gotten very far. It feels like an impossible struggle to embrace the habits that’ll get you there.
Why is this?
Well, there’s a powerful dynamic that tends to keep us exactly where we are, despite sincere intentions to change our habits and even desperate feelings for a different life.
According to Psychologist, Robert Kegan and Harvard Professor, Lisa Laskow Lahey, we have a built-in “immunity to change.” What this means is that while we may consciously want to change and even outwardly agree to the change, we have an equally strong internal desire not to do so, of which we may be completely unaware.
What does this look like?
Say you want to go gluten-free to see if it will help you lose weight. A few days later a friend stops by with a homemade cake (that has gluten). You eat two pieces with her, and then that evening, berate yourself and wonder why you self-sabotaged. According to the immunity to change concept, perhaps this could be because you (unconsciously) thought if you didn’t eat the cake, she would feel hurt and your friendship would be in peril.
It’s worth your time to take a moment and think about the unspoken desires that fuel any undesirable behavior. When we have a better understanding of our competing commitments we can truly begin to understand the motivation behind why we do what we do and how we can overcome it.
First, do the work to understand your unspoken motivations and see them for what they truly are, and then consider the following 10 habits to start decluttering today:
- Not setting clear goals and creating structure. We get to live by design or default. If our personal finish line is ambiguous, we’ll never reach it. It’s much easier to move toward distractions like social media and other screens, rather than hazy priorities. Often we mistake a lack of willpower for a lack of clarity.
- Putting yourself last. You may be in the habit of constantly supporting others towards their dreams and goals, and when you try to focus on your aspirations, you’re just too tired. It’s extremely difficult to pour from an empty cup. Take a moment now to give yourself permission to put yourself at the top of the list.
- Not creating any margin to breathe. Does it seem like you’re running from one thing to the next, and still feeling like you’re not doing enough? Get off whatever treadmill you’re on, and create time and space to just be. Stop all the doing, and practice being.
- Blaming others for how you feel. Our feelings come from our own thoughts, and we get to decide how we want to interpret the circumstances of our lives. Don’t give your power away. Consider not saying, “you hurt my feelings,” ever again. The only way you can have hurt feelings is if you choose them.
- Pessimism. If you’re on the lookout for ‘bad,’ the brain will find bad. It may feel safer to think about the potential negative, but there’s no upside to it. Instead of focusing on possible drama, and being a downer to yourself and those around you, find some silver linings. Flip your focus to the good and watch your mood soar.
- Unmade decisions. Usually, we know right away if an opportunity is a “heck yes.” When it’s hard to make a decision, typically it’s because we’re people pleasers and don’t feel comfortable saying no. Respond to the request one way or another and then move on.
- Permission-giving thoughts in the moment. The thought, “Even though I wasn’t planning a cookie right now I deserve this cookie because I’ve been doing so well on this no-sugar diet” appears kind, but it’s the brain’s way of keeping an unhelpful habit alive. And each time you act on the thought, it fuels the habit because the brain gets rewarded.
- Not questioning urges that pop up out of nowhere. Just because you have an intense desire for something doesn’t mean you have to respond to it. Allow the urge to move through your body. Typically the intensity will dissipate after about 3 minutes.
- Saying yes when you want to say no. A yes always comes with responsibility and can be hard to back out of. Decide, do you want to live by your priorities, or by the priorities of others?
- Getting on a wagon you don’t want to ride for the rest of your life. We metaphorically “get on and fall off wagons” over and over and it’s a detriment to our health and wellbeing. What if we choose a wagon that we couldn’t fall off of because we liked the ride so much? That really is an option!
Our brains see any new behavior as a threat because it perceives change as destabilizing. This immunity to change mechanism is actually designed to protect us and keep us exactly where we are…so expect that there will be some initial discomfort with any changes you want to make.
Before you know it, you’ll start to see things differently. You’ll feel more empowered. Life will look lighter. And your goals will no longer feel so impossible to reach.
About the Author: Heather Aardema is an optimistic build-er-upper, momma of two boys, mountain biker, and fan of homemade and not-perfect. She’s the founder of School of Living Lighter—where she helps women tackle their clutter, un-complicate their lives, and lose weight for good—read more of her essays at SchoolofLivingLighter.com.