Why, when you are making positive changes in your life, do things seem to always get harder before they get easier?
I’m sitting here at my desk, 10 days into the New Year, with a headache, foggy brain, and a growling stomach. I catch myself drooling over the jar of gumballs sitting on my desk. Yes. You guessed it. I’m just one of millions of people in the US who have a new year’s resolution to do something about my health in 2012. My plan starts with detoxifying my body with a juice fast for 7 days (I’m on day 4), restart a regular exercise routine, and then eat mostly raw whole foods for the next two months. Sound extreme?
I could get down on myself for not already having mastered this once and for all, but the fact is that change is hard to initiate and then to maintain. We often need several tries at it. Would you agree that change is tough? Here’s why it’s so:
- Stopping Something. Change almost always involves stopping something we are currently doing, or changing a pattern that is well established, while at the same time starting something new that is in direct opposition to the pattern. It’s like stopping a battle ship and turning it in a new direction and it always requires a ton of energy and commitment!
- Higher Level. The new thing we want to do, be, or accomplish is always on a higher plane. With the turning of a new year most of us evaluate ourselves and see that we have sunk, slacked, or been asleep in areas that need our attention and it’s time to elevate.
- Entropy. Defined as “the tendency for all matter and energy in the universe to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity.” What that means is that every system, especially living systems like we humans and relationships, evolves to a state of chaos and disorder. It’s a universal law. Look at the pyramids of Egypt. Did you know that there was a thick slab of granite rock that once covered their facades? Entropy is at work in the wind, rain, gravity and other elements and the granite is now gone.
Because my team of coaches and I work with families, we see them working on their own masterpieces within the walls of their own homes. They are striving and succeeding at turning conflict into peace, relationship break downs into healing, and the turbulence of adolescence into mutual love and respect in adulthood. The interesting thing is that the same principles that work to overcome decay in physical work and achievement, applies equally well to family relationships. We need to support families as they work out their success with these three true principles:
- Dreams. Last night I watched a documentary titled “Man on Wire”. A Frenchman who walked a tight rope between the Twin Towers in the 70’s. While his dream would certainly not be mine, this documentary illustrates what can happen when someone is compelled by a dream. Dreams, when compelling enough, put in motion planning, preparation, and allocation of personal resources to make them come true.
- Commitment. Some people say that goals are not really goals until they are written down. I would add that commitment really isn’t a commitment until something inside us changes from “I’ll try” to “I will”. The moment this happens it shakes us to the core. It’s big.
- Persistence. As with my health, when we try to develop a new habit things get harder before they get easier. My advice is to acknowledge this fact up front at the time you make the commitment. Expect tough going and then welcome the bumps when they come. It means you are still moving forward AND you are close to the point where the going get’s easier!
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Print this quote out and paste it on your mirror, fridge, or teen’s forehead. Remind yourself that it will get harder before it gets easier. But the key to this is that it DOES get easier. The intense junk food cravings I have today for example, will not be nearly so intense a couple days from now.
Dream, commit, persist. I wish you steady success in your New Year’s resolutions.
To Family Happiness!
Tim Thayne, Ph.D.
Founder, Homeward Bound