Have you tried to make changes in your life that didn’t stick?
Maybe you’ve bought and read plenty of self-help books and yet you still aren’t making or seeing the changes in yourself that you dream of? Are you wondering why that is?
Today I’m talking about why Self-Help Information doesn’t always stick or work for so many people….
What is self-help anyway?
Self-help is anything you’re doing for yourself with the “intention” of bringing you closer to becoming or being the person you want to be.
This can be related to your body weight, fitness, improving relationships, building social skills, finding happiness, your finances, or any other facet of your life.
There’s never been more information available to facilitate change, yet so many people are struggling to make meaningful progress toward becoming the wonderful, and happy, and successful people they aspire to become.
It can feel like there are many obstacles when implementing self-help advice. Most of the time is it all or some combination of the following.
Are you really, honestly, applying the information?
For example, losing weight is a form of self-help.
There is literally tonnes of information out there on how to lose weight. In fact, it would be challenging to find someone over the age of 10 that couldn’t give you a reasonable plan for losing weight.
The problem generally isn’t that the plans are wrong, it is more a matter of compliance. Once you have a viable plan, it’s important to stick with it and do what is required by that plan.
Often easier said than done, I know, but basically, information is pretty useless and will do nothing for you if you don’t apply it.
You feel that learning is the same as doing.
Sometimes we think that understanding is the same as doing. We think that if we can just learn enough then somehow some magic switch will flick in our mind and solve everything without putting in any real effort. If we can just find the bit of info that will change our mind, then everything will fall into place…
BUT, that’s like saying understanding how to do a push-up is the same as physically doing 100 push-ups each day. Knowing that push-ups are great for building upper body strength and wanting to have upper body strength is not the same as doing push-ups and having upper body strength. The same applies to any changes you want to make.
Knowing how to do something is not the same as actually doing it.
It’s necessary to put your understanding of a strategy into practice if you want to see it get results for you.
I didn’t get any traction in my life on the things I wanted until I decided it was time to stop the learning and it was time to take action ACTION TRUMPS LEARNING, EVERYTIME..The mind switch only get flipped after you start taking action and get some momentum.
Which leads me to mention….Procrastination.
Agh..Now, I’ve been guilty of this one, too. Self-help books can be so addictive! It’s an inexpensive way to feel like you’re addressing your challenges. Like “oh, I’ve bought that book and read it and know all this stuff and I’m going to do this plan (then never do)”
We buy into the marketing hype and think this next book is going to “fix me” (quote unquote)…but a book cannot do that, only following through on the recommendations of the book “might” do that, provided you are mostly convinced it is the right course of action in the first place AND it’s something you are prepared to do long term.
We get a good feeling of accomplishment from reading self-help articles and books or signing up for tha next programme. It’s like we have access to powerful information that the average person doesn’t have.
Feeling like we are “gonna” do something makes us feel better about ourselves in the moment and like the matter is sorted….
However, at some point, it’s necessary to put the books down and just get on with it and persist for long enough for our brain to come around.
Sorry, but reading self-help book after self-help book without taking action is just another form of procrastination.
Another reason is people also give up too soon.
We want results now, dammit! We get impatient, decide what we are doing it isn’t working and throw in the towel far too soon.
It takes time to lose weight, sometimes the scales don’t move for days and we think the diet isn’t working. It also takes time to save money, improve your writing skills, or rid yourself of bad habits like smoking.
In general, the longer you’ve been struggling with a particular issue, the longer it will take to move beyond it.
The neural pathways in your brain have worn deep habit grooves that take perseverance and persistence to break and form new connections, pathways in your mind, in other words ‘new habits that serve you’.
Just keep at it though, bit by bit you will get better and it and in time, you will succeed. Try different things and add more actions each time.
I can’t tell you know many attempts it took me to quit smoking, I lost count, but I’ve been smoke free for like, 10 years now. No going back. The habit of ‘not smoking’ is firmly entrenched in my mind now, I never think about smoking anymore…other than that it was something that I used to do.
When you keep trying something repeatedly, it sends a message to your brain that you really do want to do this new thing, your mind really only does what it thinks you want it to do, sometimes it just needs a bit of persuasion!
- Sometimes you need to add outside accountability and support (like quitline, a coach/mentor/counsellor, meetups)
- remove the substance you wish to avoid from your home (food, cigarettes, alcohol),
- immerse yourself in listening to podcasts, watching videos and reading about the topic
- avoid situations and places that trigger you
- reduce stress in your life from other areas, when we are upping the stress in one area of our life to make a change, we need to temporatily make sacrifices in another, like saying no to a couple of party invites if you think it is going to blow your new healthy eating regime.
If you aren’t prepared to be persistent, maybe what you’re really failing to appreciate how resistant you are to change?
Change is actually much more challenging than most people realize. We have many built-in survival mechanisms that make us resistant to change.
You might be miserable as you are now, but you’re alive. That’s enough to keep the primitive part of your brain satisfied. Better the devil you know, right? Your brain views change as risky, even good changes!
Ever noticed how, when you try to make a change, from no where you can feel under pressure, stressed, and a little irritable? That is your brain trying to stop you from making a change! Don’t fall for it. Like a toddler throwing a tantrum until it gets its own way, you really mustn’t give in or your brain will only repeat the performance next time it wants to get its own way.
Changing slowly making small changes, one at a time – may be really frustrating, but it has a much better chance of success. Your subconscious is less resistant to small changes. Plus, they’re easier to add into your regular routines and life.
I’m afraid it’s not enough to just decide a change is necessary. As frustrating as it is, the inertia of sticking with your old patterns is easier than changing. You brain likes things to be the same, it loves routines and habits that it can fall back on without having to work so hard.
Assuming you can drive, remember how hard and how much you had to concentrate when you first learned to drive a car? Think now how you can drive home, pull in the garage, walk inside and feel the shock of not remembering the drive home?
Ever thought you would go a different way home for an errand and found you went into autopilot and whoops, drive straight past the turn off?
That’s your brain doing what it does! Your subconscious brain is like the autopilot for your life, doing the things that it thinks you want it to do, because you told it to, over and over and over.
Since our conscious mind can only focus on so much at one time, our deeper mind learns and then takes over doing repetitive things to free up cognitive load so that you can focus on other things. You have to tell you brain what you want it to do, a lot! You’ve got to be persistent if you want to teach that old dog some new tricks.
This is one of the main reasons that I believe diets fail, too many changes all at once!
Your brain just can’t keep up with too much change at once, the cognitive load and drain on willpower is too much…..
one thing at a time is a much more sustainable approach, not what people want to hear, I know, but like I tell my clients, it’s better to start off with a small change that you nail and succeed with, layered on another small change and get the snowball effect over time…
it doesn’t look like much is happening at first, but one day you look back at the path behind you and see that snowball has cleared a massive path through the trees and now there is no one, no way, no how that is stopping, it has momentum of it’s own.
Now, all of that is excellent, I hear you say. But. but…Yes, none of that will work if you’re not really willing and ready to transform yourself.
You aren’t making an identity change
Look, if you want to be wealthy, it’s not enough to adopt a few habits around saving and investing.
You need to become a person that values and appreciates the building of wealth. You must believe that becoming wealthy is something worthy of your time and attention.
You’ve got to change your perspective and beliefs to accommodate the idea of the person you want to be.
You’ve got to start from your core and work your way out. Make an identity change, if you will. Decide who you want to be, do the actions that that sort of person does and then the outside stuff falls into place. Eat and move the a way a slim person does, and start to live that way.
I see so many people setting weight loss goals where they lose weight, but they aren’t “becoming” the sort of person who is slim! They may do something temporary to shift weight, but then return to their old ways once the diet is over and guess what? They regain the weight.
If you want to be a slim person, how do they live? What do they think? How do you be like them? Do those things and “be” like them and you will be slim, the outside stuff like weight loss manifests from doing the work on the inside.
Self-help materials provide the opportunity learn how to make those important changes in your life.
They provide information and inspiration and motivation and hope, but, it is still up to you to apply the information to your life and to perform that transformative work on yourself.
Self-help is some of the hardest work you’ll ever do. It can be a really bumpy ride. These things don’t happen in a straight linear progression, there are always highs and lows and setbacks in your journey, oftentimes it feels like 2 steps forward and one step back, but even at that you at least you are still moving forward.
So, make small changes, one at a time, your efforts over time it will add up to make those bigger changes you want.
Don’t let slow progress discourage you, progress is progress, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, this isn’t a race, you’ll get where you want to go and make those dreams of yours come true.
Remember, there is only one person who can change where you are today and where you will be tomorrow, and that’s you.