It will be helpful to address and burst the bubble on two very prevalent myths. These myths often frustrate people who desire to grow, stand in the way, and often drive people to give up prematurely on their goals and vision. By looking at these two erroneous ways of thinking about how change occurs, and by firmly dismantling and dismissing the premises upon which they are based, we will then be in a much greater position of power to make conscious and helpful choices.
The first of these two mistaken beliefs is that change can happen either instantly or over a brief period of time. With all due respect to anyone who wants to grow and become a better person, this is plain, old silly thinking. The reality is that sustainable change takes time, at least sixty to ninety days, to take effect. And the answer is surprisingly simple: we are creatures of habit, wired to do the same thing we have done repeatedly, until some behavior comes along – one which we are motivated to adopt – and replaces the ingrained habit. Have you ever noticed that you drive from home to work, or from home to the store or school, and most of the drive passes without you even being aware of the route you have taken? That is our nervous system, operating on autopilot. We learn a particular way of doing things, and once we have gotten used to a certain way of doing something – especially if it works for us without too many starts and fits – we stick to that way of doing it.
Changing the ways in which we behave requires a measure of self-control for which most people are not prepared. They just think, “Oh, I will start a new (fill in the blank) tomorrow!” It just does not work that way but knowing that there is a method that will most certainly bring you the long-term, sustainable, new results you are looking for can be very empowering. This method has been written about at length in my book entitled, “The Man with Zero Talent.” In Chapter 4 of that book, I discuss a concept known as the “180-degree twist” at great length. The short version of it goes like this: As creatures of habit, and as pleasure seeking creatures at that, we often spend a great deal of time looking for ways to feel good, e.g., eating fast food, watching meaningless but lurid movies, smoking, etc. What these negative habits have in common is that they set up a chemical dependency loop in our brain which becomes increasingly difficult to undo with the passage of time.
Now, here’s the big revelation: in order to break a bad habit and replace it with a new one, we have to be thoroughly aware that the pleasure-inducing chemicals that have been floating around our brain and body as a result of these bad habits are going to FALL OF THE CLIFF when we commit to a change in our routine. That is going to look and feel like one thing and one thing only: YUCK! Ask any drug, alcohol, or cigarette addict how the first three days feel when he goes cold turkey. Ask any non-athlete how his muscles feel beginning around the third day of a gym workout. Ask anyone who gives up fried chicken, a large sugary soda, and mashed potatoes with gravy for salad, grilled, skinless salmon, and water how he’s holding up after the first few days. The answer will always be the same: LOUSY.
Does this mean we should not change our habits? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite. Knowledge is power, and forewarned is forearmed. If we go into this project (and it may end up being the biggest and best project of your life) with a healthy dose of grip, fortitude, and perspicacity, then we are positioning ourselves beautifully for the 180-degree twist that is coming our way. Translation? We will not only start feeling good again, but we will actually begin to feel better than we have in years, maybe even in our whole life.
It comes down to, as they say in the Twelve Steps, “white-knuckling it” for long enough to get to the other side of the equation. And make no mistake, the pot of gold at the end of that rainbow is most definitely there, you simply need to keep your eye on the ball and do not let your steps falter.
The second myth that I want to shed light on is the notion that reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep and focus, and performing at a higher level are all distinct and separate entities. THEY ARE NOT! Rather, they are inseparable and interrelated. If you are stressed out, you will become anxious, and this will lead to restless sleep, poor focus, and lackluster performance. This phenomenon has been discussed at length in the same book “The Man with Zero Talent “chapter 2 that deals with the body-mind connection.
What we learn by understanding this interrelationship is that we are in for a real treat when we address any one of these lifestyle choices. What I mean by this is that you will see a change in the other areas mentioned when you address one in particular. For example, undertaking a daily practice of twenty minutes of meditation, deep breathing or similar will automatically (and after a time, of course) begin to allow for improved sleep, enhanced focus, and more laudable performance. Likewise, going to bed earlier or setting a goal at home or at the office to “up the ante” on how we take care of business will likewise lead to a decrease in stress and anxiety.
This is all good news! And the even better news is that the process starts when you add one single ingredient: YOU. Nothing happens by thinking alone; we must put in our due diligence, make an effort, and commit to a sustainable plan.
I can tell that you are getting excited reading what has been written here, and I want to strongly encourage you to start the process of change today. It is your life, and isn’t it worth living at the highest and best level possible? Of course, it is! Take action today and reap the rewards ever so soon. See you at the top!