We will often read inspirational quotes or perhaps hear a motivational speaker talking about making a massive change to transform your life. Massive change does sound compelling, and the message makes it appear as if we all need a big dose of motivation and willpower…and then, we can turn our lives around. And…we can do it right now.
My coaching clients often get caught up in this mental process, just as many of us do. For example, when someone wants to change their daily habits of sleeping in till 8 am, they set the goal of getting up at 4:30 am. This is a massive change. Another example would be weight loss. While struggling with weight for many years, a client sets a goal of losing 3-4 pounds a week for three months. Again, the intent here is massive change over a short time. One final example would be the client who has always led a disorganized life. Their home is a disaster, with piles of stuff in every room. They keep setting a goal of getting up one Saturday, and cleaning it all up! Over and over, they establish the big goal and find failure within a few days.
Each of these situations is a set-up for failure. The goal is admirable and would resolve a big problem in each of these examples. Yet, failure is inevitable because the BIG goal fights against life, and the very nature of life’s stability. Here’s why: Homeostasis.
Homeostasis: Equilibrium amongst many, complex systems & competing forces.
In nature, balance is always maintained. Life fights against rapid change because such change brings chaos, death, and destruction. In the human body, the explanation behind any pattern of behavior is remarkably complex, involving an almost infinite number of variables (including experiences, how experiences were interpreted, hormones, genetics, brain function, parenting, peer relationships, books, movies, and much more).
In other words, there is enormous intricacy in the balance that is maintained by all these variables, which leads to any consistent habit pattern. If we try to push change too quickly, so that the systems are unable to adapt, then there is push back. Think of this as a comfortable position, considering all the variables involved. When we move out of that comfortable position, there is discomfort. Too much discomfort and the system fights back.
It seems that something ALWAYS gets in the way of success if we seek that massive, rapid change. False starts occur again and again, and in doing so, many of us find the assault on our self-esteem to be relentless. So, what does a smart brain do? It eventually gives up. Why go through such torture!
This simply makes sense, if we stick to this model of seeking massive change, and repeatedly experiencing failure. Fortunately, there is another way. And the other path is well supported with solid research; not some hyped-up motivational speaker.
Seek gradual change. Let the systems balance and find balance.
First, let’s be clear. A big goal is not a problem. It’s the notion of massive change quickly, in the almost instantaneous reaching of the goal that is a problem. We succeed without the sweat and tears that make it likely. We want a few weeks of effort to overcome years of sitting on our butts. We want life to instantly bend to a thought, or a goal, without appreciation for the immense complexities supporting the old habits that got us here. Give it to me now…that’s what we want!
So, if we can abandon the need for almost instant gratification, then we have no problems. We can set a goal for a big change. We just need a better game plan for the change process to get us there. In next week’s article, I will explain some methods of doing this, both in your family life and in other areas of personal growth as well. Until then, I urge you to simply appreciate the infinite beauty found in the unfolding of all this complexity in each moment of your life. Don’t argue against it. Instead, you might just imagine how utterly silly our thoughts are that try to summarize this complexity into a judgment as if we know something because we put a label or word on it. If we can instead, see each moment through the eyes of truly immeasurable variables unfolding before us, we can be better prepared to introduce a system that can bring about healthy change amidst this ongoing evolution of life.