I have been working on self-improvement for a few years now and it seems as though I do really well right out of the gate and then, before I know it, I find myself falling back into old patterns. How can I prevent this from happening?
Joyce, thank you so much for your great question.
You’re speaking my language, as I’m sure many who are reading this are nodding their heads in agreement. We want to make changes and we get really excited about whatever it is we are trying (i.e. change exercise/formula, new book, e-course) until the excitement and luster wears off. Enter old pattern like a comfy pair of slippers that we fished out of the garbage.
There could be several reasons as to why this is happening…
The old pattern, it’s a habit. Like with any habit we often do it without thinking, so we are unaware until after the fact.
To eliminate the old and replace it with the new, this requires two things; awareness and conscious, consistent action. Sounds like work, right? I’m not going to lie, it is work, but when we really want that change to happen, the “work” only lasts until the change becomes a new habit. Then it becomes automatic.
Focusing on too many changes at once. I’m soooo guilty of this myself because I have to be honest; I’m not very patient. I want results and I want them fast so I will try and make many changes at once to get the results I want.
If we are trying to do too many things at once, we run the risk of overwhelm and disappointment. Permanent change requires time and like I mentioned before, conscious, consistent action. Sorry to sound like a broken record here. That means picking one thing to focus on until you’ve got that one thing mastered. Once you have that one change down, then try adding something else to the mix.
Pay-off, baby. Old patterns often have a payoff or we wouldn’t hold on to them. Let me explain. Let’s say you really want to drop some excess weight. You begin eating better and drinking more water. You’re about two weeks in and you start to notice some change in your body. Cool! And then enters the slice of pizza and another slice of pizza, and then maybe another slice of pizza. With that last slice the negative naysayer in your head says, “See I told you couldn’t do it. See! You don’t have what it takes so you might as well stop now and go back to your old ways of eating because you’ll never be able to drop the weight. Besides, it’s too much work.”
So what’s the pay-off? Holding on to that limiting belief of “you’re never going to be able to do it”. It protects you from the perceived disappointment that has happened in the past when you’ve tried to drop the weight before.
The best way to kick the pay-off to the curb is to not quit on the change you are trying to make. OK, so you had more slices of pizza then you would have liked. Don’t chuck your efforts out with the pizza box. Instead, cut yourself some slack and get back to what was working to create the change you were noticing.
It is also really helpful to shine a big, huge light on the pay-off for holding on to the old pattern. What’s it “protecting” you from? What does holding on to it do for you?
The old pattern is known and comfortable. Change is often scary and filled with unknowns...that’s what makes it so scary.
What if the changes I make cause others not to like me?
I’m scared that once I make these changes I won’t be able to sustain them.
What will happen if I make this change?
In order to move away from the known and comfortable, it helps to lean into the fear. For example, if I’m afraid that others won’t like me if I make a change I’ll ask myself the following questions…
What would happen if others stop liking me because of the change I’m making?
I’ll be alone.
Then what will happen?
I’ll have to find new friends.
Then what will happen?
I might find some new friends that like the change I am making.
Another exercise that works really well is to ask the question, “What do I know to be the truth?”
For example, “What do I know to be the truth about people not liking me if I make this change?”
The truth is, this change will be good for me, and those who like/love me will continue liking/loving me. They are not surface level friends. They care about my well-being and they want me to be happy.
Just remember, you aren’t alone when it comes to falling back into old patterns so don’t give up. Try different things on for size and do reach out to people you can trust to support you in making the changes that you wish to make. Having support and accountability partners is always a huge help!
Joyce, I hope this helped to answer your question. I do have one request for you, and that is, be patient with yourself and be sure to celebrate the small wins along the way. Making changes takes courage, not to mention time.
Thank you again for your great question!!
Much love and light…
P.S. If you have something that works for you when it comes to making long lasting change, please feel free to share your suggestions and ideas in the comment section of this post.
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P.P.P.S. Need some assistance with making changes? Want an accountability partner? Reach out.