You would never get halfway to a prized destination, only to turn around because you thought you should be there by now. No, you would check the map, take a pee break, grab some snacks, and keep going until you get there. Yet, when it comes to personal growth, we often throw the towel in when we don’t see the results we think we should see.
“Are we there yet?” It’s a phrase that will drive any parent batty when they have heard it for the umpteenth time, but my soul has asked me this question repeatedly as I venture on, reaching for a breakthrough. So, do you want the bad news first or the good news?
Here’s the bad news: most change that we want to create in our lives is going take a lot longer than the twenty-one days we were promised by habit experts. When it is a complex behaviour like changing our relationship to money, being a better parent, being a better partner, eating healthier… it takes time. Do you remember the post on the iceberg? Bottom up change is about relearning a way to think, challenging beliefs, and often developing a new identity in that particular area of your life.
This takes time, even if you have clarity and a plan for moving forward.
When we look at change, we often create a map in our heads that looks like this:
Point A —————————————————————Point B
(where I am starting from) + hard work = (desired outcome)
It is easy to see why our brains love this formula. It is simple and clear and offers us a promise that if we work hard enough, we will be rewarded with the body we want, the career, the family, the life. So straight forward. So clean. So untrue.
You see, when we are creating real change that isn’t just a simple behaviour like remembering to floss every night, we are reconstructing our identity and the neuropathways that support it. We are reworking a number of thoughts, beliefs, and expectations while often having to learn a new skill in thinking, as well as in our behaviour.
This is what the process of change looks more like:
(where I am) + hard work (re-examining beliefs/thoughts) + practice = (desired outcome)
Not so pretty. Not so simple.
We are not just changing a behaviour. We are changing how we think about the behaviour and how we think about ourselves. For example, if you see yourself as bad with money, and you want to reach a specific financial goal, it is not just practicing the rule to save more and spend less that will give you the desired outcome. To be successful, you will need to explore why you overspend and create some shifts in your thought processes. You may also need to ditch some limiting beliefs and unconscious habits. This is often what takes the most time to change because you’re actually changing the neural pathways in your brain. But through repetition, practice, and focus, the impossible becomes possible…if you don’t quit.
Other aspects of change that take time are the micro skills that need to be developed. ‘Spend less and save more’ is a very simple concept, but you will become easily frustrated with this if you don’t have the micro skills needed to confidently fulfill this goal. Some of these skills include budgeting, anticipating expenses, knowing how to differentiate wants from needs, knowing how to shop well. Each of these skills take focus and energy to develop and practice. They will get you to your destination, but it is not always the smoothest or simplest process.
TIME FOR SOME GOOD NEWS
If you can relate to the frustration of ‘not being there yet’ or having stopped and started the same journey over and over again, don’t lose hope. This doesn’t mean you are broken or doing something wrong, it just means that you aren’t there yet. Little steps will still take you on a long journey to where you want to go. With healthy expectations and some practice, you will find yourself more confident in the change process and possibly even enjoying it.
In this journey you will get tired. You will get frustrated. You will fall and you will get back up. You will get there.