Deep Motivation Strategy for 2001
Change Your Thoughts — Change Your Habits — Reach Your Goals
By KRS Edstrom
Fourth in a series of “Resolution Keeper” articles to help you achieve and maintain your goals all year long. Track your progress and report your success stories to KRS. If your story is one of those chosen, you will receive a free copy of KRS Edstrom’s inspiring all-in-one guide to healthful living “Healthy, Wealthy & Wise.” If you missed the first article (how to define your motivation profile and set specific strategies), second article (how to communicate with yourself) or third article (how to become your own best expert), please search for KRS in www.Awarenessmag.com
Now that the year 2001 is half over it’s an ideal time to take stock of those New Year’s resolutions you made ? or didn’t make. Are you on track? Have you accomplished everything you wanted thus far? Or, have you forgotten what your resolutions even were? If you’re on track, congratulate yourself profusely, as you are in the vast minority. If you didn’t make any goals or let your goals slip, you are not alone. In fact, 70% of us know what we need to do for our better health and well being ? but we just don’t do it. Not to worry, you can still reach your goals this year. So turn off the television, put down the potato chips and read on.
Staying Motivated Long Term
Whether your goals are spiritual, physical, financial or anything else, how do you get yourself to do what’s best for you? How do you stick with your self-improvement goals? Is it simply a matter of following certain common sense basics, such as setting rewards or selecting the right program? My experience says no. While I’m happy to see a growing trend in better-balanced programs and fewer fanatical fads, failure rates remain high. Commonsense basics alone aren’t the answer. Nor are fear motives. For example, in regards to improving our health habits it has been found that convincing health statistics or even a personal health scare doesn’t motivate people long term. Staying motivated for long-term change requires understanding the psycho-dynamics of those deeply-ingrained patterns of behavior we call habits.
It’s All About Habits
To better understand the process of behavioral change it’s helpful to understand a bit about the way your mind works. Most of our thinking is linear. We generally think in “1+1 = 2” terms. In other words, if we follow such and such a plan, it will necessarily lead to such and so result. Black and white. What we miss is the valuable gray nuances in between. We miss or ignore the subtleties of our individual nature and unique needs in the interest of staying on the narrow inflexible path which we have foisted upon ourselves under the influence of media, “experts,” and a desperate need to plug in an easy solution. I see this in my work with clients. When clients come to me “cold,” that is, not referred by a friend who knows my work, they often have preconceived ideas of how things should go, whether their issue is weight, stress, pain, emotions or something else. They expect that I will put them on a generic program and they will grin and bear it until results are attained. These preconceived ideas fade as clients learn through experience that any successful path vacillates; it is not black and white.
Modifying or releasing deeply-ingrained thought patterns might seem scary or at least threatening the first few times you try it. Our belief systems are wrapped around the core of our being and identity even moreso than an arm or a leg. Abandoning any part of these beliefs might seem analogous to extracting a stubborn tree trunk with far-reaching roots. Beliefs protect us from our ignorance and give us a sense of security. After all, if I release such and so belief, who am I? What will become of me? Will I fall into a bland vacuum, void of all beliefs and identity? Who am I if not a person whose career, spirituality, geographic preferences and entire life is based on my familiar (albeit myopic) world-view?
How would it feel to
transform those protective walls around your beliefs from opaque to transparent?
Try this exercise I use with my clients:
1. Think of a mildly negative belief that you hold, such as disliking a certain color.
2. Imagine that color as you try to instantly and collectively release all connotations you have around the color. Don’t stop to analyze the “why” of your dislike (although that can be a separate exercise), just think of lifting the opaque wall of your old beliefs as you would raise a curtain. Sometimes beginners can do this immediately, before loss-of-identity fears kick in. Practice this for several days or weeks. It’s like doing consciousness raising push-ups. You get better with practice.
3. Once you have mastered #2, try this with more challenging beliefs, incrementally. When you get to core beliefs such as spirituality, the thrill of being able to remove your opaque wall of beliefs is so overwhelming that use of the word enlightenment will not seem like overkill.
4. Practice this exercise in conversations, relationships, business transactions and every other part of your life.
You have just successfully navigated a certain quagmire of your inner workings that can forever change your worldview. This same consciousness-expanding technique can help you adapt self-improvement habits. Where your mind was once set against yoga, for example, or set on chocolate, you can now have skills to change your stuck mind from the inside out, versus trying to continually force unpleasant “shoulds” down your throat. You can remove your self-sabotaging, opaque walls of belief, or at least expose the walls so that you can proceed more clear-headedly with additional techniques. You will come to trust the rhythm of the process as you experience more ease in making and breaking habits. My world has personally been transformed by this process, helping me to overcome alcoholism, agoraphobia and sugar, to name just a few of my former belief-supported prisons.
The rewards of releasing stagnant beliefs in daily life are far-reaching. For example, instead of blindly arguing a point on anything from car brands to politics, you can stretch your paradigm to fearlessly grasp opposing viewpoints. Once you can fully comprehend opposing viewpoints you are forever free from that which formerly colored and even threatened your reality.
As you remove your limiting beliefs, stay attuned to the voice in you that intuitively knows what you will do and what you can’t or won’t do, what your weaknesses and strengths are, what works for you and what doesn’t. Create more space for this innate wisdom, as it is part of your filtering mechanism for whatever expert advice, programs or practices you will choose to incorporate.
How to “Set” Habits: The Importance of Building
In the January/February issue of Awareness I described several effective techniques for getting and staying motivated. Among other things, I talked about starting with modest goals, about directing your intent and about taking a gradual, doable approach. This issue’s discussion of “changing thoughts, changing habits” gives you the hub of the wheel in achieving and maintaining your goals. But remember that reading about something is different than instilling it. You must insure that your new thought patterns stabilize so they can turn into permanent habits. The best way to do this is by building momentum.
Have you and a friend ever pushed a car? When you first try to move the car, it seems impossible. But, assuming you have the car in neutral and you don’t let up on your pushing, the car will soon budge ever so slightly. Then, if you keep the forward momentum going, it moves a little more easily. Suddenly and incredibly, you are moving a huge hunk of metal down the road ? all with just a little momentum.
The same principle holds for any goal you want to “move” into reality. Specifically, be consistent with your plan so that your subconscious has time to “get moving,” to change and to “set” the new pattern. You achieve consistency by establishing a reasonable schedule and a plan that you know you will maintain. When your first modest goal is firmly in place (allow a few weeks to a few months for each stage of your goal), then you can carefully raise the bar just a bit and repeat the process ? this time with even more confidence and experience under your belt.
Most people fade from the pursuit of a goal just before or just after the first little budge (using our car metaphor), when things seem impossible. If you are sure to set modest goals and are then aware of the principle of momentum (that it will eventually start moving and it will get easier), you can transform what would have been yet another sure failure into a rather easily attained success. The big bad failure monster holds no power over you because you now have its “number.” Eventually, changing a habit is no longer an elusive dream. And the prospect of changing several habits for desired goals is not nearly as daunting. You know that each one is not a separate, overwhelmingly hard won battle. In command of your own tried and true habit changing formula, you greet each with a knowing smile.
Derived from KRS Edstrom’s book Healthy, Wealthy & Wise. For more on her books, advice column and audio samples of her popular Inner Mastery Series meditation audios, visit www.AskKRS.com KRS Edstrom, M.S. is a lecturer, syndicated columnist and author. She is available for private sessions (by phone or in person) and classes on meditation, motivation, stress, pain, weight loss and other personal growth issues. Call (323) 851-8623 or Email AskKRS@aol.com
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