5.20.2010

Behind the Scenes: Resistance to Change


In April, I embarked on a cleanse that takes between eight and twelve months to complete. Along with this cleanse came a whole bunch of lifestyle changes I needed to make in order to support my process. Actually the list wasn't too bad because most of the requirements were already operating in my life. It was the other 50% that I had been resisting:

1. A primarily vegetarian or vegan diet (no dairy, flour, or sugar)
2. Consistent exercise
3. Regular mealtimes
4. Bedtime by 10pm and wake up before 7am
5. Minimize TV and computer time
6. Avoid overworking

Piece of cake! Ha! Try telling that to my brain :)

Today is Day 32 of my new lifestyle routine, and I've already got two cleanses behind me. But I've started to realize I am in a sort limbo state between old habits and new habits. I'm right on the edge of stopping short -- I'm in the Land of Resistance to Change.

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To implement my lifestyle changes I decided to use the yoga benchmarks for learning something new:

40 days: to change a habit into something positive or break a negative habit
90 days: to confirm a new habit in you
120 days: you have become the new habit
1000 days: you have mastery of the new habit

Everything was going swimmingly until around Day 22 when I felt like if I didn't have a pizza dripping with cheese and some fatty meat I would lose it on someone. I turned to TV as a substitute, salivating in front of every food commercial and trolling the Food Network for delicious recipes I couldn't cook. What I discovered is that this backslide isn't a bad sign, rather it alerted me to the fact that I was on the growing edge of changing my habit. I was showing signs of resistance to change.

Signs of Resistance to Change
complaining or gossiping
oversleeping
blaming others
creating drama
reoccurring mistakes
increasing bad habits such as food, TV, and drugs
repeating the same conversation or story
using generalized words such as "always" and "never"

It seems to be common knowledge that your brain is a lot like a computer. A machine that thrives on routine. A computer runs programs and so does your brain. Many of which you've had a hand in designing. A computer program is a list of instructions -- like a recipe -- that is triggered when you command it to run. Your brain runs a program when you command it. For instance, what if every day at 10am I meet outside the office with a couple of friends for a chat and a smoke. Here's an example of what the program in my brain might look like.

Smoking Program
1. I'm feeling tired, trapped, and bored at work.
2. If it is 10am, then meet friends for a smoke and chat outside.
3. Smoke and chat with friends.
4. I feel more intellectually and emotionally stimulated, rested, free and content.
5. Back to work feeling rejuvenated.

To break a habit like smoking with friends, is more then resisting the need to buy a pack of cigarettes. You need to break your brain's attachment to the routine, which is more difficult than it looks because underlying the program are some really deep emotional needs that are getting consistently met.

Also, anytime the brain sees a new habit replacing an old habit, it perceives this invader as a threat to the system -- like a computer virus. The brain can only think in the moment like a wild animal. It has a hard time understanding new future outcomes that could be potentially beneficial. It prefers to stick with what works. If the brain sees that you want to the erase the current program, then its whole existence feels threatened and goes into survival mode -- resistance to change.

So this resistance isn't all bad for it's a bit of a circus sideshow. It's just me and all my silly human antics. Watching it, laughing at it, and continuing to support my new program is all I need to do. Remain steady is my new mantra because I've become keenly aware that the moment between Day 32 and Day 40 is obviously when my brain is going to feel like a bucking bronco. I'm going to hug my poor little brain as it battles through what it perceives as a life and death struggle because it doesn't know Day 40, 90 or 120 is when the magic is going to happen.

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As I change my life, I have begun to see how difficult it is for me to permanently change my business habits. I institute one thing and then about four weeks later I've abandoned my new idea or come up with a replacement.

Also, because of this new lifestyle challenge, I now know I can only change one thing at a time. Coming up with too many ideas and then wanting to implement them all at once is another pitfall for me. For the time being, I'm scaling back on changing my business, and I'm trying to watch this process so that when it feels right I can to apply it to Hint.

Have you been working through some lifestyle or business changes lately? What have you been doing to keep on track? How have you approached your resistance to change?

For more musings on business and jewelry see my whole Behind the Scenes blog series.

5 comments:

  1. I've always heard it takes 21 days to break a habit, but reading your post I realize it take much longer. No wonder I have difficulties.

    I've always been resistant to change--especially if it is change just for the sake of change. That's not to say that I don't want to grow, but I value the 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it' theory. In reading your 'Signs of Resistance to Change' I realize I need to relax a bit in this area.

    Other areas I need to work on are; managing time better, less TV, less salty/sugary snacks.

    Thanks for a great post!

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  2. wow.
    You always give me something to think about when I come to visit. That is something that I will have to come back and re-read.
    Resistance to change...hmmm...I am most resistant to leaving my job which is the exact thing that I most want to change! How is that possible? I will be examining that thought closer. Thanks for inspiring me, Beth.
    Enjoy the day!
    Erin

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  3. Alice, I read about the 21 day rule too. I guess it came about from studying amputees and how long it took for phantom sensations to cease and new habits to develop. I'm guessing someone with an amputated limb has more incentive to create a new habit then some slacker like me! After noticing this I realized I begin to break down around day 23 or day 30. Glad this post helped and you may start moving towards some changes you are longing for!

    Erin, wow that is one of the top 5 changes! I wish you lots of inner strength as you as see your way through that beautiful vision for yourself.

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  4. Beth, you inspire me. Thank you for sharing. I'm finding myself looking forward to your posts.

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  5. Thank you (again) for a lovely and insightful post! You seem to hit the nail on the head with me time and again! I read your list of resistance signs and thought, Hey! That seems familiar! At least I know it's more than my just going crazy. It's a process!

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