Seven Words to Change Your Life: How Can You Get Past Your Resistance To Change?
Maybe you’ve seen the video. A heavy storm in the Netherlands stranded over one hundred horses on a small island of raised land, where they suffered from food and exposure for three days as concerned people frantically tried to find a way to rescue them. Even as the waters slowly receded, the traumatized animals didn’t risk putting a hoof in the waters that had so terrified them.
Finally, in a moment of inspiration, four women rode on horseback all the way to the island, then turned back toward safe ground. The stranded horses danced with excitement, then stepped carefully into the water to follow into a narrow that eventually stretched all the way from the island to the dry land where the anxious crowd of humans awaited them.
Why do I tell you this story?
First, because we are more like those frightened horses than we should be. Once they found a bit of dry land, no matter how small, uncomfortable and incapable of supporting life long term, they resolved to stay there. Changing their circumstances would have involved stepping back into the water to test its depth.
Second, because it illustrates the importance of having a mentor you can trust. As soon as those four horses (with women on their backs, but that wasn’t important to the stranded horses right then) braved that muddy water, the others were willing to follow. Follow so closely, in fact, that although the water had clearly receded to a manageable level all around the island, the horses didn’t risk stepping anywhere but where their mentor horses walked. As relieved as they must have been to head for safety, they didn’t follow in a crowd, but in a dainty, single-file line.
If you’re stuck on a little piece of island that doesn’t really support your life, how can you overcome your own resistance and change your life?
- Set a timer and spend fifteen minutes listing ways to change your life, as quickly as you can. This is brainstorming, so no idea is too wild, big or unreasonable. Sometimes just setting aside our rational objections for a few minutes will bring new ideas to light.
- Think in terms of baby steps. If you want to change your saving habits, for example, so that you’re saving 10% of your income every month, start with 1% and increase it by a percentage point each month.
- Incorporate changed behaviors in to habits you already have. Let’s say you want to improve your marriage by showing your wife more appreciation. You don’t have that habit, but you are in the habit of brushing your teeth in the morning, right? So you add one more task to your tooth-brushing ritual – you use a washable marker and jot a note to your wife on the bathroom mirror: “Thanks for picking up my shirts!” “You looked beautiful this morning!”
- Stop and think. As I said in my last blog, habits are your autopilot. To change your autopilot’s settings, you’re going to have make adjustments through the day. This is harder than it sounds, because you’re usually thinking about other things. But let’s say you want to change your habit of being negative. Set your cell phone alarm to ring three times through the day. That’s your cue to stop and think about what you were just saying or doing. Were you drifting back into the negative? If so, make an adjustment to get yourself back on track.
- Have a mentor who will give you honest feedback about how you’re doing in moving toward your goals.
Change is never easy. No matter how much you might say you want to change your life, you’re going to be drawn toward the unhappy familiar rather than the glorious unknown, but if you make a conscious decision to constructively deal with your resistance, you can overcome it.