Why make changes slowly?

December 31, 2011

Why would you want to change slowly? It seems that everyone is promoting fast change (ex: lose 7 pounds in a week, make 100s of dollars in a day).

I understand that in this day and age and in the western culture especially, doing something slowly seems counter initiative. I know that people think this way because I used to.

When I started making changes, I dashed off and tried to make them as fast as possible. The result: I fell flat on my face again and again. And I accounted my failures to lacking discipline, or motivation, or even ability.

When I decided to take things slow, I started really changing. My slow change was having effect, and the best part was I was having fun improving myself. Instead of attempting to change fast and feeling burnout and frustration, I took it slow and made the change.

This is not to say that you can’t change fast. If you can, by all means do it. But for most of us, this fast change that our culture loves, isn’t helping. I see it when I see obese people fail on the newest “fad” diets. I see it when the person motivated to run, only lasts a few days before hanging up the shoes. These people want to change, but changing fast, just doesn’t work for them.

And this saddens me. I want you to change and I want the world to change. By making simple, important changes that last long term, I know that you will feel happier, more peaceful, more confident, and healthier. And by becoming a better you, you make a better world.

Think of it as a starting reference for making life changes:

1. Know Why

You can’t blindly make changes.

You need to understand why you want to make a change. And you need to understand that the change is important.

If the change is important, and you know you want to change… well that’s the only way the change will get done. Fail at this step, and you will fall flat on your face.

So read up on the benefits. Think about how the change will effect you. List the positives on a sheet of paper. Keep adding to it. If there aren’t great reasons to make the change, why change?

These reasons to make the change will be a life-savor later. When you want to quit, you can look at how much better your life will be once you make the change.
2. Start Slowly

You feel the adrenaline and motivation of Rocky, and are ready to run a marathon!

Slow down. Realistically, you probably can’t run a mile yet.

People fail at change because they go too fast. They get burned out. Don’t let this happen to you.

Take running. If you go all Rocky and start at a sprinting speed, you may feel good for a minute or so, but then you’ll probably collapse. If you are just starting to run, and you attempt 3 miles, even if you achieve it, you will feel like you never wan to run again.

Start slowly. Instead of going way past your comfort zone. Stay in it. If you start to feel tired or pain, stop. You’re done for the day.

Next day, you can go a little farther..

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against pushing yourself. You can try that (though its still not necessary) once your change becomes a habit.

But for right now, slow down. You will find that forcing yourself to change – even slowly – is hard enough.
3. Motivate Yourself

To make a change, you need to repeat your new habit every single day. Once it becomes a habit, there are days when you can skip, but for right now, do it every day.

I gave you the first key tip in your arsenal, to start slowly, instead of pushing yourself, do the opposite – stop before you feel its hard. This in itself can motivate you to continue.

But even then, you will probably feel tempted to stop, to quit. This is when you need to be motivated, not to do better necessarily, but simply to comply.

Everyday, you need to make your change a priority. This is why I recommend only taking on one change at once. You can’t forget about your change (that’s a cheap way to lose your hard work).

Remember that list we made in day one? Look at it every day. Put it somewhere were you see it every time you wake up. Make multiple copies and place them around your house.

Tell a friend you are trying to change, and make them hold you accountable. Sign up for an online forum, and post that you are making the change. Then update on your progress daily. Start a blog about your changes.

Reward yourself. Your reward can be candy, a nightout, or anything you find fun (make sure the reward doesn’t contradict your change though 😀 ). Give yourself small rewards everytime you are compliant with your change.

Do whatever it takes to motivate yourself. The first week or two are the hardest, and you will probably require a lot of motivation to succeed.

Don’t let yourself quit, remember why you are making the change (it’s damn important). Envision your changed life.

Keep going. You can do it.
4. Make it a habit

When you do something everyday, it can take – depending on who you ask – a month to 60 days to make it a habit. I’ve learned that time varies. How hard your change is, and how much you comply determine how long it takes to form a habit.

However long it takes, there will be a time, where your change is second nature. This is when you can say it’s a habit.

Once your change is a habit, pat yourself on the back. The hard part (should) be over. If you haven’t already, you should start seeing some benefits of your change. Understand though, that some of the harder changes can take some considerable time before you see results.

For example, if you are overweight and have eaten healthy and worked out for 40 days (two incredibly hard changes, I know), then you would feel better, but you may not have lost any weight yet. It takes time.

When you’ve made your change a habit, you can almost relax. However, you still need to:
5. Maintain it

Learn from me, and maintain your habit.

There are times that for whatever reason, you break your habit. If you do this for a few days, it’s usually no big deal. You can still get back to your habit.

But if you do it for some time, it can almost be back to square one. That means, you have to start the hard, slow process over again. That sucks.

Things often come up that make it hard to maintain your habit. If you can, cling to your habit like life. Maintaining your habit, is pretty easy, while starting afresh is hard.

And remember that even though your change has become a habit, there will still be times when it’s tempting not to do it. You need to push through these times (use motivation).

You’ve come so far, so don’t let something little stop your valuable change.
6. Use it

This is my favorite step, because it’s a beautiful thing.

Once you make one change, no matter how small, and have made it a part of your life, you can start with other changes.

And the great thing is, you know the process. You know that changes can be made, you are confident in your ability to change (which will only grow as you make more changes), and you are ready and motivated to make another.

Don’t tackle something too hard too fast though. I recommend starting small, and working up. This will allow you to make important, yet smaller and easier changes, and boast your confidence in changing more and more.

Remember that to make changes efficiently, you need to do so slowly. So take on one change at a time, and make sure it’s a maintainable habit before you start the next.
Guest post by Jake O’Callahan

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