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Self-Control Not Solving It? Try This Instead.

Change sucks.

It’s the reason we stay in bad relationships, eat the same foods, and overplay songs until we’re sick of them. We tend to like comfort, even when that comfort is uncomfortable.

Simply put, we’re creatures of habit. And when we decide to break a habit, we rarely have an immediate epiphany or feeling of freedom (no matter what those inspirational Instagram seem to say.) More often than not, change temporarily causes everything from anxiety, to depression, to a Ben & Jerry’s binge.

For example, I spent nine years in a relationship when I should have left after five. Why? Because making a change, even a necessary change, pushes you out of your comfort zone and into that awkward place that nobody likes called “growth.”

But, much like growing out a bad haircut, change doesn’t happen overnight.

Sure, we have growth spurts brought on by moments of clarity, loss, or motivation. But for the most part, humans don’t change until their discomfort in their current situation becomes greater than their fear of change. Growth is rarely linear and often requires a tipping point.

This wave-like cycle of upheaval and clarity is known as evolutionary catharsis. And, just like cleaning your closet, it gets a lot messier before it get better. The end result is that kick-ass “aha” moment when our brain is reorganized into a new state of greater awareness, functioning, and simplicity. We feel more connected to ourselves and are ready to take the necessary steps to get where we want in life.

So how does this work?

Right before we have a growth spurt, many of us have a temporary feeling of discomfort. This manifests as self-defeating behaviors. Learned in childhood as coping mechanisms,

These behaviors fall into three categories:

1. Those that try to reduce the amount of overwhelm by pushing energy out, such as:

  • yelling
  • compulsive behaviors
  • sickness

2. Those that block additional energy from entering the system, such as:

  • depression
  • withdrawal
  • loss of appetite

3. Those aimed at distracting from the growing chaos inside them, such as:

  • any form of addiction
  • a ton of television-time
  • overworking

These three types of coping mechanisms are our system’s final, desperate attempts to preserve our status quo. After all, it’s scary and stressful to step into a new way of being. I’ve heard coaches call this “de-evolution,” but that's a misnomer as it’s a natural part of the evolutionary process. Whether we reach for the bottle, an ex, or the remote control, it’s all part of the process. Our goal is not to judge these attempts, but to notice them with genuine curiosity. (Full disclosure: writing that last sentence made me gag a little, but it’s true. Judging ourselves for our coping mechanisms doesn’t make them any easier to change.)

Our belief around what growth “should” look like is nothing more than our inner-critic shouting louder than our inner-nurturer. As we release old beliefs, our brains have a hard time balancing the volume of these voices. Eventually, it levels out and new, truthful ideas emerge.

The Solution

While these self-defeating behaviors may temporarily release the pressure of growth, the end result is keeping our system stagnant. Learning to tolerate the discomfort rather than running away from it allows us to take that quantum leap into the next state of awareness, tolerance, and resilience.

Ironically, our fight to indulge in these sabotaging behaviors is what keeps us playing small, making the process longer and more painful. The solution comes down to self-surrender. We must be willing to surrender the person we are now to foster the person we can become.

Whatever your brand of self-defeating behavior, it’s time to tune in to the parts of yourself these behaviors are trying drown out. Notice the voice that shouts the loudest and the voice that suddenly became silent.

  • What are they saying?
  • What do these parts of you want?
  • How can you be more compassionate toward them?

Sure, it’s easier said than done. And I’m certainly not perfect. Like all of us, my relationship with myself is constantly evolving. I’ve found that self-control has only led to quick changes that are hard to sustain. The lasting life-changes all resulted from listening to and embracing the parts of myself these actions tried to mute.

It’s not always fun. In fact, it rarely is. But you know what’s worse? Staying stuck.

6 Actionable Tips To Create More Calm & Clarity Now

This is the time of year when sh*t hits the fan.

The time of year when our family and work responsibilities continue to increase, while the number of days til 2017 seem to count down like a ticking time bomb. For many, December 31st feels like an unconscious deadline for our goals, dreams, and well-intentioned thought spirals: What did I do with my year? Did I make the most of my time? Am I where I want to be?

As if to respond, the world of wellness has no shortage of solutions:

  • Meditation mastermind!
  • Vision board craft-a-palooza!
  • Colon cleanse!

But of all the advice, products, and programs that flood my inbox, the ones that stick out the most are the ones that tell me to, “trust your gut.” Two reasons why: 1) “Gut” reminds me of digestive issues and crime scenes from Law & Order. 2) For chronic over-thinkers (like me) it creates more questions than it answers.

When I'm in panic mode, the last thing I want to do is slow down, tune in, and “trust my gut.” But without that pause, my action plan would be a detailed, actionable, roadmap that leads nowhere. As crazy as it sounds, slowing down is the only way to ensure that we take the right actions that align with who we are and where we want to be.

So, in an effort to help you (and I) avoid the holiday frenzy (and ensuing mental breakdown), here are 6 actionable tips to help you slow down and get through the year with more calm & clarity:

1. Separate your thoughts from your feelings

Thoughts and feelings aren’t the same thing. Sounds obvious, but we often jump from one to another so quickly that it seems impossible to separate. For example, “I can’t believe my dog peed on my Christmas tree!” is a thought (true story!) Your ensuing feelings of frustration toward your dog are…you guessed it: a feeling. Knowing the difference in realtime will help you to gain clarity and avoid spiraling down the rabbit hole o’ stress. From there, you’ll be in a better state to take the next right action.

2. Focus on how you want to feel (not what you want to accomplish)

The goal of any goal is the feeling it gives you. For example, wanting to have $1 million isn’t about the cash or what you can buy with it, rather the feeling that those things will give you (whether it’s the joy of buying a unicorn onesie for yourself or the joy of spending it on others).

Instead of waiting to accomplish your goal to get that sensation, why not cut out the middle man and give yourself permission to feel amazing now. You have access to those emotions any time, any place. So, focus on ways you can cultivate those feelings here and now.

3. Do less to do more

Productivity isn’t about how much you do, it’s about doing the right things in the right order.  Take a good, hard, look at your “To-Do” List and ask yourself what’s important and what’s urgent. Often, you’ll find that much of what you’re spending your time on only seems important because it’s urgent. Give yourself permission to move things from your “To Do” List to your “To Don’t” List and only take action on what truly matters to you.

4. Say “no”

No to parties, no to secret Santa, no to anything that feels like a burden. “Obligation” is a fancy word for self-inflicted stress. Silence all the “shoulds,” “it’s safer tos,” and “common sense” that you’ve created. Instead, say “no” kindly and directly. Your future self will thank you.

5. Select one small act of self-care

Now is NOT the time for a major life overhaul. Set yourself up for success by picking one, tiny, act of self-care that you can consistently incorporate into your day. For example, drinking 8 glasses of water, not eating lunch at your desk, or allowing yourself an afternoon candy binge. (No judgments!)

6. Be okay with not being okay

The holidays can suck. That’s okay! Trust that you’ve gotten through similar obstacles before and can do it again. The more you resist the inherent stress of the holidays and wish things to be different, the worse you’ll feel. Instead, remind yourself that “this, too, shall pass” and a fresh start is right around the corner!

How To Create An Action Plan To Achieve Your Goal (Even if you failed in the past!)

Change sucks. Whether you’re trying to build in more balance, boost your business, or stop binging on brownies, we can always find reasons NOT to take action. In my work with clients (especially women), I find that activities relating to self-care and prioritizing one’s own needs are often the most challenging. For most, we’ve been conditioned to put others’ needs ahead of our own. Carving out time for ourselves can feel scary or like we’re a selfish slacker.

It’s easy to find a million reasons not to take care of ourselves. Our excuses often outweigh our motivation to create change. So today, I’m going to walk you through a common self-care goal and show you the exact system I use to create any type of lifestyle change. This system not only addresses the obstacles that held you back, it also helps you to create a motivating plan for change. So, let’s get to it.

GOAL: MEDITATE FOR A MINIMUM OF 5 MINUTES EACH DAY.

Step 1. Get clear on the benefits of your goal and what you’ll achieve.

This step is all about your “What & Why.” In other words, why is this change important to you? What do you want to achieve and what will that feel like? It’s not enough to focus on the textbook benefits, you need to go deeper and find what it means to you. For example, meditation has A TON of well-documented benefits including:

  • less stress
  • better sleep
  • improved physical & mental health
  • more energy
  • better memory

But that’s not going to get you to meditate. Why? Because it doesn’t create a clear visual of what you’ll achieve and how you’ll feel. Take it one step further and tap into what you’ll use those benefits for. For example, “Adding in 5 minutes of mediation each day will help me to (decrease my stress which will help me to) not flip out when my boss asks for a project update.”

Step 2. Address your personal obstacles.

These are the internal reasons that held you back in the past.

  • I stopped meditating because it’s frustrating. I couldn’t get my mind to stop wandering, so I gave up.
  • I don’t like being still. Feeling my feelings makes me want to reach for my phone and distract myself.

Writing out what previously held you back will stop the amorphous, unnamed fears from sabotaging you. And, it will help you to create a plan that addresses these challenges moving forward.

Step 3. Block out time to take action.

This step is crucial. It isn’t enough to focus on the internal obstacles that keep you stuck, you need to focus on the external. Why? Because we tend to procrastinate the things that are new and uncomfortable. We wait until we magically “find time,” rather than actively making time.

When a client tells me “I want to meditate, but I’m too busy,” I know their time management skills don’t support the life they want to create. The key to making a habit stick is to determine when and where it will happen in your routine. For example, if you’re committing to adding 5 minutes of meditation in the morning, visualize how it fits in with your current routine: “Every morning I brush my teeth, wash my face, meditate for 5 minutes, eat breakfast, etc.”

Step 4. Create your action plan.

To do this, draw on step #1 to get clear on your EXACT goal and why it matters to you. Look at the obstacles from step #2 and figure out how you’ll respond to each. Block out time and space (using your calendar or alarms as necessary) to incorporate it into your current routine. Go into as much detail as possible to ensure that when the time comes to take action, you aren’t scratching your head.

 

Step 5. Track Your Accomplishments.

Whether it’s creating a chart or using an app, celebrate each win. Be sure to acknowledge your progress and how far you’ve come!

 

To Review:

  1. List the benefits, how you’ll feel, and what you’ll achieve.
  2. Get clear on the personal obstacles that previously held you back
  3. Mange your time
  4. Create a detailed action plan
  5. Track and celebrate your success

The Takeaway:

To achieve new goals, you must be willing to try new things. Rather than using the same methods you used before and then beating yourself up for getting the same results, create a plan that draws on what didn’t work to propel you forward. Remember: how we do anything is how we do everything. Use these steps to troubleshoot the changes you struggle to make. And if you need support, I’ve got these 3 options for you. So go out there and take action!