Change is hard. Or so we commonly believe. We become comfortable in our daily routines, we get used to our habitual ways and so we resist change. And yet, we deeply want it. We yearn for a deeper relationship, a different job, to lose weight or to begin a new healthy habit.
Of course we do… Change is natural. It is part of the biorhythm of life. Just look outside at the bright red and yellow leaves that are beginning to appear. Consider how a woman’s body changes to become a mother. In fact, according to research at Stanford, our skin completely regenerates in 7 days and all of our cells are replaced every 7 years. Put simply, change is as essential and organic as living itself, so naturally our bodies and brains and souls crave it.
But how do we make the change we want? Often, we’ll wake up one day and say “That’s it – no more sweets!” Or we’ll hear a friend say “Forget it – I’m done with men!” And then weeks – or even days later, we find ourselves just having a little bite of cake or back online looking for a guy.
So what’s going wrong? I propose that we aren’t respecting the natural process of change. Change is not instantaneous. We don’t see a tree go from fully green one day to suddenly bright red the next. Change takes time. We need to honor this natural cycle and apply it to our own lives. As my friend and colleague, Louis Alloro says in SOMO (Social Emotional Leadership) Labs, change can be “full of ease and grace.”
First, we must be clear about the change we are hoping for. Not just that we want a different job, but specifically, what attributes of a workplace and colleagues matter, how do we want to feel about the work we do? Positive psychology, the scientific study of well-being, tells us that hope is very powerful in igniting change because it gives us agency to make change and it empowers us to develop the pathways to change. And change is made by creating new pathways. According to research out of MIT habits are neural pathways, or patterns, formed in our brain to quickly respond to certain triggers. This means that when your brain senses the trigger (ie: walking by a bakery), your brain is prompted back to the old habit. Routines or habits you’ve formed took time to establish and now you must take time to change them. You must accept, love yourself for it and then begin to create NEW neural pathways – new habits. For instance, when you walk by the bakery and your brain thinks “let’s eat!” – instead breathe, smile and then in mantra, “I am healthy”. Do this every time you walk by a bakery and begin to see the habit change.
Autumn is a natural time to reflect on the change you want in your life. I hope you use this cyclical gift of nature to get more of what you want in life.
For more tips and tools on change this Fall, check out HealthyStyleNY.com’s October 13 one-day retreat: Time for Change.