✶ Change = The Consistent Application Of Small, Frequent Behaviors (Part 6)

Now that we’ve looked at the urge to change, failure, and resistance, I want to focus on the definition of change I gave earlier. I define change as the consistent application of small, frequent behaviors. I want to break this down and then look at how to start implementing it so we can move toward our goals.

(1) consistent application: Consistency is, I believe, the key to change. You must stick with it. Where we get caught up is that we think consistency must be unwavering, with no setbacks or failure, no return to old habits. When I say consistency, I mean moving forward daily and yet pausing if we need to in order to honor what is needed on a deeper level or in order to mine the guidance of failure or expand self-love to ourselves. A pause is not the same as stopping altogether. But just as on a long journey we need times to stop and rest or meander, so as we walk toward our goals, we will need (or be forced) to stop, recuperate, ruminate, or even turn aside for a detour. This is a natural, and, I think, necessary part of healthy change. These times of pause are just as vital as the journey. The key is to pause with the intention of learning, gathering, and healing before moving back on.

(2) small: New Year’s resolutions tend to be large in scale—working out every day, giving up alcohol or chocolate or sugary drinks, eating right, starting a new business. Large goals are perfectly achievable, but if you focus too much on the forest, you’ll miss the trail just beneath the mighty limbs. If your goal is to exercise, start with an amount you really feel you can stick to. Ten minutes a day? Five? One? Go as small as you need to until you are on a scale you can achieve daily or weekly or whatever your goal is. Then stick with it. Once you feel ready, expand that activity. Go two days without chocolate instead of one, or eat just a small piece each day. Give up one sugary drink a week, then two. You are building your muscles, and just as you can’t grab the 10-pound weight right off the bat, so you can’t expect to spend an hour in the gym each day if it’s not where you feel you are at. So, if you struggle to achieve your goal, and if you’ve already worked with any resistance you may be feeling, start smaller. In dog training, the trainer will stick to what the dog already knows, and then expand its training base. If the trainer expands it too far and the dog doesn’t understand, they narrow it back down to a level they and the dog can meet on and try again, more slowly perhaps, to expand.

(3) frequent behaviors: Along with consistency, I think frequent practices are a great way to start a new habit and keep you rolling toward your goal. Note that not all goals will be daily ones. If your goal is to visit the gym once a week or submit a new article to a magazine, you might make your goal a weekly one or even a monthly one. You can break writing an article into smaller tasks, but it’s hard to do so with a gym visit. The key here is to set a time for yourself in which to move toward your goals and then practice consistently sticking with it. Again, this could be daily or weekly, monthly or even yearly.

What is the role of failure?: The role of failure is to guide us and allow us time to recollect, let the learning sink in, practice our new skills, and gather ourselves to continue the journey onward. Failures are not setbacks—they are necessary and natural pauses that allow us to continue the journey better-prepared than we were before.

How do we start?: Start tomorrow! That’s right. You’re absorbing a lot of information and starting the first task today of visualizing and mapping your goal in terms of the definition I gave. Give yourself a chance to prepare and adjust to your new goal. Get excited or acknowledge resistance. Listen to what’s needed as you prepare. Then, when tomorrow hits, give it a shot!

Meeting resistance: Resistance! Along with perfectionism and fear, resistance can halt progress before it even begins. If you’re encountering resistance to the point you can’t begin your goal (I’m at the same point myself with at least a couple of my goals), try to pick something different to start with. As you move toward the new goal, continue working with the resistance surrounding the original goal. Techniques like dialoging and accepting your emotions may be helpful. Above all, grant yourself some love and patience as you navigate this terrain. Learning how to work with resistance is a prize in itself and its own goal worth pursuing. In fact, maybe that will be your new goal.

Challenge!: Visualize a goal you’ve been yearning to work toward and write it down. Maybe you have several goals brewing, but choose just one for this, and map it out in terms of small, consistent behaviors. Maybe jot down a plan for when failure or resistance hit. How will you honor the failure? How will you meet the resistance? Then, finally, jot down a third plan focused on self-love. How will you respond to yourself when you fail? How will you listen to what you need? Are you willing to readjust your goals as you gather more information about what you need? Share your plans below if you feel comfortable! 🙂

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