Just as a chameleon changes its colour to adapt to the environment, so we need to adapt to our environment. Image courtesy of Africa at freedigitalphotos.net
Change can present as a difficult situation for people to varying degrees. We can become comfortable with the status quo, so that events that change our routine from minimal ways, to seemingly major upheavals can be terrifying.
We like what we are familiar with. This could be an inbuilt survival mechanism, as anything foreign to us could be perceived as a threat to our survival. From the moment we are born, this can kick in. For example when a very young child is taken from its mother it immediately can become extremely distressed.
However, just because we may have an innate fear of change, just because it feels scary it doesn’t mean it is a positive adaption to infer from our feelings that the outcome will be a bad one.
Of course, there are a million variables. There are some changes that are obviously ones we should, and naturally are cautious with –If we change our job to one not matched to our skills, we may find it to be a dis-satisfaction. Changes to where we live naturally should be approached cautiously as there are many factors that could possibly impinge on our every day living quality – is the place well-built, or somewhere convenient in terms of our work place and where we go to school.
However, other changes, even though minor can feel uncomfortable. A lot of these may be due to social fears. For example, joining a regular group, such as an exercise class, a chess club, or a public speaking club involves meeting new people, making regular changes in terms of commitment, having the confidence that we can learn new skills. The change often requires that we be patient with ourselves.
For example, we may wish to change our life-styles so that it is a healthier one for us, in terms of diet and exercise. This isn’t always the case, but because this may represent a major overhaul for us in terms of the way we live our every day lives, we need to carrying out these change processes slowly, allow for slip-ups, and not berate ourselves when we do. Instead, we need to remind ourselves of the positive reasons we are choosing to change our lifestyle in terms of health, positively affirm by self-recognition, and self-praise the positive steps we make.
There are varying thoughts on the time-frame required to consolidate change, so that it is transferred from being a conscious, more effortful process to an automatic one. However, research suggests ninety days is often a realistic estimate. Many drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres are about 3 months in length for this reason.
The main points about change:
1. Is it positive or negative? Obviously most changes will seem to incur both types of evaluations of this kind, but one list will obviously outweigh the other.
2. If positive, write it down. Incur support. In what ever way works for you, commit yourself to carrying out this change.
3. Put up a calender and mark out 90 days. For every day that you successfully carry out your change, stick a star. Or reward yourself in another way that works for you.
4. If you do slip up, don’t beat yourself up. This is a normal part of change. Humans are creatures of habit, and the longer you’ve been doing something, the more challenging a change might seem. If you slip up for more than 3 days, you may have to start your ‘ninety-day challenge again”. This might seem like you’re breaking the rules, but it allows you to be human. This is not to suggest that this is encouraged, or should be easily allowed to happen. This is not to be harsh, it’s just that the more the 90 day process is carried out without interruption, the more likely it will be that it will become automatic.
5 Focus on one change at a time. If you want to change your health and your social skills, it might be a bit much to do both at the one time. Another factor: the more simple and realistic your change program is, the more likely it is that you will succeed. So make the change such that it really does incur the positive rewards you hoped it would bring. However, not so difficult, you slip up and become discouraged, as this is the last thing you want.
So, if the change is a positive thing, look forward to all the exciting things it will mean for you – you might save more money, climb stairs without puffing, no longer feel that shy when speaking to others, always enjoy a tidy home…
Take the change challenge – you can transform- the choice is yours and the control is in your hands…give yourself the gift of embracing it !